Finding the Perfect Pet For Your Family at an Animal Shelter
An animal shelter can be a very stressful place for a homeless dog or cat. The constant barking and meowing and the continuous foot traffic from shelter staff and people looking to adopt can be both scary and intimidating. Many cats and dogs are also bewildered as to how they got there in the first place.
Many animals may appear timid, may hide in the back of their cages or may even hide under their bedding. As a result, it can be very difficult to get a grasp of their true personality. That shy, timid, frightened pet may actually become a fun-loving clown when you bring him home. Many animals begin to blossom once they are in a loving home environment.
Bringing a new pet into your home is a lifelong responsibility. Don't rush into a decision. It may even require several visits to the shelter before you make a final commitment.
You can make the decision a bit easier if you narrow down some of your decisions:
- What type of dog or cat are you looking for?
- Do you want a puppy or a kitten?
- Would you prefer an adult dog or cat?
- Would you consider giving a loving home to a senior pet or one with special needs?
If you have very young children:
How to assess an animal at a shelter
Most shelters will have kennel cards on each cage that provide basic information about the animal, including age, whether or not the pet is owner relinquished, any obvious health issues, and, sometimes, how the animal does with other animals. it's also important to try to assess for yourself the health, demeanor and personality of a potential pet:
Assessing a pet's health
These days, shelters go to great lengths to ensure that their pets are well-groomed and free of fleas, ticks and ear mites. Many shelters also work with animal behaviourists who volunteer their time to ensure that pets are well socialized, as this gives them a better chance of overcoming the stresses of the shelter environment and ultimately of being adopted.
Animals with special needs
Get to know the animals
There may be several animals that get your attention at the shelter. Ask a volunteer to arrange for you to spend some time with each animal separately in one of the shelter's hospitality rooms.
These private areas are often away from the shelter activity and noise and the one-on-one time gives you both a chance to interact. For animals that are stressed and cower in their cages, a visit will give them an opportunity to come out of their shell a little bit and slowly begin to react to you. Remember, be patient.
Once you have made your decision, the shelter will require you to fill out adoption forms, which can be lengthy. Expect questions about:
Adoption fees vary from shelter to shelter. They cover the cost of any medical care the pet may have received as well as the spay/neuter operation, if not previously done, vaccinations and deworming.
Many rescues will not release a pet into your care before they have made a home inspection to confirm it's a safe and clean environment. This is because they take entrusting a pet into your care very seriously and want the best situation for that pet to thrive and be safe.
While adopting a pet is a commitment, it's also important to inquire about the shelter's return policy, just in case things don't work out.
Most shelters provide you with as much information as they can about your new pet (you'll receive more if the pet was owner relinquished). This also will include a health assessment from a veterinarian. Additionally, you'll likely receive a few supplies and a sample of the food the pet is currently eating. Be sure to use this food and slowly transition to any new food. This will help prevent upset stomach and intestinal distress. You can always transition slowly to another brand or formula later. For the same reasons, don't rush to change the brand of cat litter. Again, when the time is right, make it a slow transition.
Settling in to a new home is quite a transition for a pet. It may take your pet a couple of weeks to begin to shine. Have patience. Don't invite a lot of family and friends over to meet the newest family member until you feel they are comfortable in their new home.