Falling in love with a certain shelter dog or cat, and want to adopt him? That’s great — but first of all, find out if he’s the right fit for you and your lifestyle.
When visiting an animal shelter or rescue facility, it can be very easy to fall in love with a particular dog or cat. Before filling out the adoption form, though, it’s important to determine if the animal you have your eye on is right for you. Adopting a dog or cat that isn’t a good match for your household, budget, or lifestyle can lead to problems and heartbreak. Here are three things to consider before bringing home a new four-legged friend.
CHOOSE THE RIGHT BREED OR MIX
Breed matters. A mixed breed is usually a great option, especially if you’re looking for an easy-going companion such as a golden retriever cross or tabby cat. However, it’s important to do some research that includes an evaluation of your lifestyle and schedule, to see if the dog or cat you want to adopt will fit in well.
For instance, herding and hunting dogs require vigorous daily exercise, or need to be taken to an open space to run for at least 30 minutes at a time. Some of these breeds, such as border collies and Australian shepherds, need a job to do in order to stay happy and fulfilled — and that will entail a commitment of time and energy from you.
German shepherds, German short-haired pointers, Vizlas, and Weimaraners are regarded as “Velcro” dogs — they tend to suffer from separation anxiety when their humans are away from home, so might not be the best choice for a household where everyone is out a lot.
Some breeds will bark for hours if not properly trained and socialized, or if left alone. While this might not be a problem if you live in a detached home, it can become an issue in apartments and condos where neighbors might file a noise complaint.
Certain cat breeds are also more vocal than others — Siamese, Bengal and Burmese are a few examples.
Are you looking for a dog to take part in outdoor activities with you, or a low-maintenance companion that’s happy to stay home? Remember that a dog requires socialization, regular exercise, and the right food for an active lifestyle.
If you don’t want to spend time and money on grooming, or deal with a lot of animal hair in your home, opt for a short-haired dog or cat.
When adopting a kitty, ask yourself if you want a cuddly lap cat or an independent breed that will keep herself entertained with the toys and climbing perch you provide.
TAKE A LOOK AT YOUR BUDGET
Being an animal parent costs money. Providing optimal care for a dog or cat involves regular veterinary visits and a good quality diet with the appropriate supplements, at the very least, so be sure your budget will allow for it. Some people adopt animals and never take them to the vet. Or they’ll buy the cheapest pet food they can find. While these measures might save money in the short term, they’ll cost you big in the long term, since poor nutrition and a lack of veterinary care will lead to expensive health problems down the road.
How much does being an animal parent cost?
“The ASPCA estimates an annual total of $1,391 for dogs and $
49 for cats,” says Lea Sanders of Companion Animal Coalition, which provides resources and access to veterinary care to animal parents in Erie, Pennsylvania. “This can vary depending on the animal. I budget around $200 to $300 dollars a month for my own pets, but they have special needs and require more care than a ‘normal’ animal.”
Beyond diet and vet visits, dogs and cats incur many additional costs. Shop around for the best prices, but don’t skimp on quality.
CONSIDER THE ANIMAL’S NEEDS BASED ON HIS AGE
Older animals tend to be less rambunctious than puppies or kittens, so don’t overlook the adults — or the seniors — if you want a calmer companion. A lot of senior dogs and cats are in need of loving homes, because most people want young animals.
Also, the budget for a puppy will be higher than for an adult dog that’s already trained and socialized; however, keep in mind that not all grown dogs have been properly trained when young. You’ll need to invest time and money into training your dog or pup, whether you do it yourself or hire a positive trainer to help you. Don’t skip this step, because an untrained and unsocialized puppy or dog can start exhibiting problem behaviors.
If you’re going to train your dog or puppy yourself, you need to ask yourself some important questions, according to trainer Lisa Yan: “Will your whole family be on board with consistency? Do you have the financial means to do training? Are you in good enough health to give the dog what he needs in terms of exercise and socialization? Do you have the time and energy to put in the work?”
If you opt for a senior dog or cat (good for you!), be aware that you’ll probably have to deal with more veterinary costs than you would for a youngster, since older animals are more prone to health problems.
When it comes to adopting a dog or cat, hindsight isn’t your best friend. You want your new companion to share her life with you, so take the time to learn if she’s the right match for you!
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