Whoever said “Diamonds are a girl’s best friend” had it totally wrong. I could care less about diamonds. Diamonds are shiny pieces of carbon. Give me a dog!
…Or a cat, like the kitten I just adopted a month ago. See, look at Chuck, my two-month-old tabby kitten!
Chuck, in all his glory.
I swear, this blog isn’t just an excuse to post adorable photos of my kitten. As a life-long animal lover, I’ve wanted to adopt a cat (my apartment building doesn’t allow dogs, and they require a little more work than I have time for right now) for quite some time. And with spring coming and its influx of baby animals due to people not neutering their pets – I can imagine I’m not the only one wanting a new pal!
Except for in special instances like intense allergies – which might require getting a guaranteed hypoallergenic breed – I’m a huge advocate of adopting your animals. Plus, if you’re adopting through a trusted and well-vetted shelter, you might be provided with a much more reliable version of the animal’s health history, the animal most likely have been spayed and neutered, and it is significantly less costly than a breeder. There are so many cats and dogs and other lovable critters in the United States that don’t have anyone to call Mom or Dad. Of course, no need to dwell – we’ve all seen those weepy Sarah McLachlan SPCA commercials. They’re called sad puppy dog eyes for a reason!
Are you looking for a new addition to the family? Having just navigated the pet adoption process, I have a step-by-step guide!
Step 1: The Question
Decide if you have the time, energy and resources to care for a pet right now – and for the next decade or more.
Committing to taking care of an animal is a big deal. Unexpected medicine, emergency veterinarian costs, paying pet sitters, and even the everyday expenses of food, litter, treats and toys can add up. Make sure you have enough savings or at least enough expected income to cover these costs.
In addition, animals take up more time than some people think, especially first time owners. Do you have time to walk your dog at least 3 times a day, or the outdoor space to keep him? Are you willing to play with a rambunctious kitten for a couple of hours everyday to keep their minds and instincts sharp?
Another concern is if and when your family might be expanding. Of course, you can’t tell the future, but if you’re planning on having a kid anytime soon, you might want to hold off on adopting a pet. It’s also important to think about the existing members (furry or not) of the family. If you have kids, are you prepared to teach them proper treatment of animals? And if you have a pet already, how will you make sure they interact in a healthy and happy way?
I’m assuming your family already knows what kind of animal you want, but you have to ask yourself some questions about what type of pet you want. Does age matter? Kittens and puppies (so, animals under a year old) tend to be the most popular choice, but they do require more time and energy to train and care for in the beginning. Also, there are of course plenty of adult animals that need your love, too. Once you have the question of age settled, you might wonder about breed.
One “downside” to adopting is you can’t necessarily shop based on breed (certifying that the animal is purebred), as you can when buying from a breeder. However, as you do get the full veterinarian paperwork from any respectable adopting organization, you can generally have a good idea of the past history of your pet.
Stella, a border collie/lab puppy, was just adopted from the Humane Society by a coworker.
If you are, keep going to Step 2!
Step 2: The Browsing
Now for the fun parts! Once you feel you’re ready to adopt, you get to browse. There’s a multitude of ways of going about this, but first things first: check out https://www.petfinder.com/. On this site, you can set a variety of specifications, which can help point you in the right direction. For example, you could look for a “baby” or “young” border collie that is within 200 miles of your ZIP code. Sometimes the animals are from individuals who happen to be re-homing the animal, but the majority are from adoption organizations. Oftentimes, in these instances, the cat or dog isn’t at a specific shelter, but is being fostered by a caring animal lover in their home. You can consult with the foster parent to set up an available time if you’re very interested in that animal, but be prepared to fill out vetting forms asking questions like, “How much time do you have to spare for your pet?” and “Where will your pet sleep?” beforehand.
Fellow SmartPerks blogger Melanie adopted one of her Cairn terriers from a shelter located in Nebraska that she found on Petfinder. After 2.5 months at the shelter, little Bacon was certainly happy to find his fur-ever home.
And really, how could you say no to Bacon?!
Or, instead of trying to find a specific animal, you can go the route I went, which was to research adoption centers within my area and visit during my free time. Keep in mind that the weekends are usually the busiest time to go pet shopping, so if you can sneak in an hour or two during the work week, you’re more likely to be able to find the exact animal you want. Before I found Chuck, I visited all of the local Animal Humane Societies at least twice each, as well as a handful of other local shelters. Each time, although I met a cat I really liked at nearly all of them, there was always something that held me back because it just hadn’t clicked.
But then it did, and I couldn’t be happier.
There’s not always a way to know if it’s the right time and place to adopt the exact animal you are meeting with. You might not even have all of your pet supplies yet, or you were not expecting to come home with a pet TODAY and now feel a little anxious about what to do next.
But have no fear…
Step 3: The First Day
If you found The One, and went through with your adoption, congratulations! This will be an exciting time in both your family’s and your pet’s life.
It’s an exciting, but sleepy, time. Lots of napping.
But now, if you’ve gotten little Fifi or Fido home and aren’t exactly sure what you can do, here are some pointers.
Some things to look out for when pet-proofing your home:
- Make sure all plants in your home or pet-friendly
- Keep all medications, chemicals and cleaning agents on high shelves in tightly sealed containers
- Secure all wires and chords so animals can’t chew on them
- Vacuum your floor regularly and check for any small items dogs or cats might try to nibble on
- Always keep trash (including in the bathroom) covered
Also, it’s important when introducing your animal to your newly pet-proofed home that it might take them up to 2 weeks to fully adjust and be comfortable. Giving them space and safe nooks and crannies to hide in, slowly introducing young children or other animals to your pet, and being home as often as possible to facilitate bonding are all good ways to make them feel welcome.
Now, ready to have some fun?
Both cats and dogs need toys in order to remain happy. For both animals, you will want to pick out toys that facilitate activity (like rope pulls for dogs and fishing poles for cats), distraction (like mobile toys filled with treats) and comfort (like stuffed animals or an old t-shirt).
You can check for local dog parks, join a Meet Up group for Pet Lovers, or spend some time cuddling on the couch.
Whatever you do, I hope you have the happiest time with your new friend.
Blogger Katie U., a Smart Perks employee, is currently wishing she could upload about 30 other pics of her beloved Chuck.