The recent flood of kittens needing homes has our local animal shelter scrambling. Kittens in shop windows, videos on social media, catchy signs, and slogans- we will try whatever it takes to adopt a pet, including tugging on every heartstring we can. I’m not above scooping up a kitten from the window and walking out on the sidewalk if I see a promising group out front! But the hard truth is not everyone needs a kitten. As much as we joke with people about a “free kitten with every groom” we know that the best adoption is the permanent adoption, and that can’t happen if people aren’t ready to accept what all that involves.
You see it every spring; the car backed up to the street in a shopping center parking lot with a “Free Puppies/Kittens” sign being waved at the passing cars and usually someone holding a little furry and making it wave its paw at you as you drive by. Every fiber of your being screams STOP THE CAR (not to mention the kids are screaming it, too), and the next thing you know you are trying to explain to your wife or your husband just exactly how you went to the store for cereal and a plunger and came home with another mouth to feed. The kids are explaining how they will walk it and feed it and brush it and love it and clean up after it, and there is NO WAY they would forget it even existed after six days. Come on, how much work could it be, really?
The impulse to adopt a pet, the ones acquired with little to no forethought are the ones that often end up being re-homed, passed from household to household, or sometimes even just dumped on a country road or surrendered to a shelter. So how do you know if you are ready to adopt? What can you do to prepare? Your greatest guide will be information, both on the type of pet you think you want and how your household operates.
Everyone has their mental image of the perfect pet: a fluffy Persian cat to sit in your lap, a majestic golden retriever standing by your side, an adorable little Yorkie tucked in your purse. But how often do people consider what they have to offer a breed or pet? You leave for work at 6 am and don’t get home until 8 pm. That little Yorkie will never make it at home by itself all day. It would have multiple potty accidents and probably develop some serious behavior issues if you brought that dog into your home. You work from home, so your lab or retriever gets to enjoy your company all day, but you live in a tiny apartment with no parks or green spaces anywhere near you. How on earth are you going to give that dog the exercise it needs to burn off that energy inherent to its breed? You bring an adorable little kitten home that now you say has turned into an attack cat, but did you quit interacting with it when it started to grow out of that cute phase?
Bringing a pet home is a commitment. If you choose to bring in a new furry family member, you need to be prepared for all that involves, from the expense of regular vet care to physical grooming and maintenance, even appropriate furnishings in your home. You need to be able and willing to invest the time it takes to work with your pet and show them how to fit in with your family, be it through training or establishing boundaries. You also need to have everyone in the family ready to learn how to care for and interact with the new pet, teaching young children how to approach it and what to avoid. Finally, you need to understand the financial obligation you have taken on, accepting the responsibility of spaying and neutering, of properly vaccinating, and of providing safe and secure enclosures as needed.
The odds are very little of this goes through your mind as you slam on the brakes and swerve into the parking lot to check out those puppies being waved in your face, which is how so many people get home with the puppy equivalent of magic beans. But if you take a proactive approach, really think about what you want and what you have to offer, you are far less likely to end up in the parking lot situation.
It sounds like a lot of work because it is a lot of work. There is a lot to consider, a lot of factors to weigh because there is a lot at stake if it is to be done properly. But consider this; if you do your homework, if you spend the time getting your home, family, and self-prepared, bringing a new family member home will be a life-changing experience. A dog or cat, kitten or puppy can be a tool by which your entire family learns patience and kindness and compassion and structure. Watching a kitten or puppy play with its own shadow takes us out of our cloud of stress and worry. Having to help an older animal deal with stiff limbs and fading eyesight helps us all to learn compassion for others, be they pet or person. Having to say goodbye to a true and faithful friend can be the most painful, heartbreaking moment you’ll have to face, but it can also be an incredible gift in recognizing and appreciating unconditional love.
Adopting a pet at any age requires thought and preparation. Taking even these few steps can help make it a smoother and more successful transition within your home and family.
Adopt a pet considerations:
1. Cat or Dog? Outside of personal preference, each species has specific needs. Evaluate your household and lifestyle to see which fits.
2. Long hair or short hair? Cat or dog, long haired pets require more personal grooming, which can mean additional time, money, and physical effort. Sure, you can bathe a St. Bernard at home, it can you get it in the tub?
3. Young or adult? Are you ready for the structure a puppy requires? Let’s face it- they are four-legged toddlers!
4. Breed. This is more about dogs than cats, but specific breeds have specific needs and behaviors. Research your choice before bringing them home.
5. Finances. Money and love always clash it seems, but would you want to bring a child into your home if you were unable to feed it or get it the medical care it needed? I hear all the time how people say veterinary care had gotten expensive, but the truth is we just know more than we used to about how to adequately care for our furry friends. Look into insurance for pets or clinics with wellness plans to help manage the costs.