10 Things to Consider Before Adopting a Pet · The Wildest

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10 Things to Consider Before Adopting a Pet

It’s a big decision, so tick these boxes before you sign on the dotted line

by Jodi Helmer
31 October 2023
A woman staring at her computer while holding her dog close.
Jimena Roquero / Stocksy

So this is it: you’re ready to adopt. Or are you? Adopting a pet is a long-term commitment; you’ll be responsible for another life, and you have to be ready to take on whatever that entails. Before filling out that adoption paperwork, be sure you’ve thought through all the variables. Here are 10 things to consider before adopting a pet.

What to expect when adopting a new pet

Pet parenthood will inevitably alter your life, and you’re probably wondering how to prepare for a dog, cat or other pet to change your lifestyle. Here are some changes you can expect:

  • Routine: instead of hitting the snooze button (again), you’ll need to hop out of bed and walk the dog, dish out breakfast, and/or scoop out the litter box – and then head straight home from work to serve dinner, manage potty breaks and offer snuggles to dogs and cats who have spent the last eight hours waiting for you.

  • Budget: you’ll need to spend money on food, vet care, grooming and other costs associated with having a pet.

  • Lifestyle: if you rent, you’ll need to make sure your landlord allows pets – and will have to ensure that’s the case for any future rentals throughout your pet’s life as well.

“This is a big decision and a 16-plus-year commitment,” says Julie Sinaw, president and founder of Animal Lighthouse Rescue in New York City. “Make sure you’re ready for that commitment. Adopting a pet is a lot of work, as well as a large financial and time commitment. If you are ready for a commitment, there is no greater love than that of a cat or dog.”

Where can I adopt a pet?

You can use the RSPCA Find a Pet search tool to see adoptable pets near you. You can also check your local shelters or rescue organisations’ websites.

There are also rescue organisations that specialise in rehabilitating and adopting out other animals, such as small mammals and exotic pets.

What are the benefits of adopting from a shelter or rescue organisation? 

There are so many benefits of adopting a pet from a shelter or rescue organisation, but the first and foremost is that adopting saves lives. There are already so many pets out there in need of homes and who may be euthanised – or otherwise kept in less-than-ideal conditions in rescue centres for far too long – and by adopting them, you’re giving them a chance at a happy life. Adoption fees are also generally far less than the fees breeders charge, so adoption is more affordable. There are even sustainability reasons to adopt from a shelter. The list goes on.

What should I consider before adopting a pet? 

Knowing what to expect before adopting a pet can help make the transition to pet parenthood as smooth as possible. Here are 10 things you need to consider before you bring a dog, cat or other pet into your home.

1. Do you have permission from the landlord?

If you’re renting, you’ll want to get permission from your landlord to bring a pet into your home in advance. It’s also important to note that even pet-friendly rentals may have species, weight or even breed restrictions. Also, consider the length of your lease and if you plan on sticking around for a while; if you move, you’ll need to ensure your next home accepts your pet, too.

2. You may need to adjust your schedule

“Different pets require different amounts of time and effort, but all pets need regular care and company,” says Holly Sizemore, Chief Mission Officer for Best Friends Animal Society.

If you want every member of the household to participate in pet care, Ruth Allen, director of admissions and matchmaking at the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) Adoption Center, adds, “It’s a good idea to draw up a schedule of who in the family will help with the care of your new pet, including playing, feeding, grooming and walking.”

3. You’ll never poo alone

Your four-legged friend sleeps on the bed, watches your favourite shows and keeps you company while you cook dinner – so don’t be surprised if they’re all up in your business while you’re doing your business. Go ahead and close the door, but they might scratch and whine. Or invite them to curl up at your feet. Who needs privacy, anyway?

4. Pets can be expensive

You’ll need to budget for food, vet care, grooming, boarding, pet sitters and other costs associated with having a pet. Adopting from a rescue centre, however, can help keep costs in check.

“Pets for adoption from shelters and rescue groups are usually already spayed or neutered, vaccinated and microchipped,” says Sizemore. “When you adopt a pet, you not only save a life; you save money, too.”

Getting pet insurance or establishing a savings account will help with unexpected costs, but “it’s vital to consider the upfront costs when thinking about adding a new pet to your household, as well as the long-term financial obligations,” says Allen.

5. Don’t adopt a pet on a whim

While it can be tempting to adopt a pet because you feel it’s love at first sight, take a few days to consider. You need to make a real commitment to care for your pet for their entire life – which can be up to 20 years or more. Take the time to prepare your home, plan, get your finances in order, and make sure that you are fully prepared to commit to your pet.

6. There’s an ick factor

Ask any pet owner: poo happens. Vomit, too. Whether you’re scooping a litter box, picking up on a walk or (oops) cleaning up an accident, it’s important to feel comfortable with all the bodily fluids your adorable companion produces. “Most people can get into a routine to clean up pet hair and all the other things that come out of dogs and cats, and focus on all the wonderful benefits of having pets,” says Sizemore. “It makes the clean-up worthwhile.”

7. Plan on pet hair everywhere

Keep the lint roller handy. Your favourite jumper and the shirt you plan to wear to work will inevitably be covered in hair – even if you have a non-shedding dog. Do a quick once over with a lint roller or wear a T-shirt that declares ‘dog hair is glitter’ and embrace it.

8. Older animals make great companions

Puppies and kittens get a lot of attention at shelters, but don’t overlook older animals. Sizemore notes that senior pets are as loving and loyal as their younger counterparts and are often easier to care for because they’ve outgrown puppy-like behaviours such as teething or toilet accidents.

“A great benefit to adopting an adult pet is that you know exactly what you’re getting,” says Allen. “Their size, weight and personality are already developed, so you can choose them for what they are rather than for what you hope they’ll be when they grow up. When it comes to choosing the right animal to adopt, prospective adopters should keep an open mind and ask questions.”

9. Socialisation matters

You might be your dog’s BFF, but they need other friends, too. “Dogs need training and socialisation to learn how to be healthy and happy members of the family, and that responsibility falls to you,” says Sizemore. Look for options like group obedience classes, take dogs on outings to the park or dog-friendly shops and restaurants, and introduce them to new people (and other dogs) to ensure your dog is calm and well-adjusted.

10. Make your home pet-friendly

Before adopting a pet, make any necessary modifications to your home, garden and fence (if you have one) to provide for your pet’s safety. Securing furniture, locking away cleaning supplies, fixing doors – there is plenty to do to pet-proof your home.

Once you’re ready to adopt, use the Find a Pet search to see adoptable pets near you. If you don’t see your perfect match, sign up for email notifications to find out when new pets are added. 

Frequently asked questions

Why should I consider adopting a pet instead of buying one?

Many pets need homes and may be euthanised or kept at a rescue for far too long. Adopting a pet gives them a chance at a happy life or could even save their life.

What are the essential factors to consider before adopting a pet?

A pet’s cost over their lifetime, and the way having a pet will change your schedule and how you spend your time are essential factors to consider before adoption.

Where can I adopt a pet?

You can use the RSPCA’s Find a Pet search tool to see adoptable pets near you.

What types of pets are available for adoption?

While cats and dogs are the most commonly adopted pets, some shelters often have other pets, such as rabbits, guinea pigs and birds available for adoption.

What are the benefits of adopting from a shelter or rescue organisation?

Adopting a pet from a shelter or rescue organisation doesn’t just save the life of the pet you rescue, but makes space for them to save another life.

How do I ensure a successful adoption experience?

Think through all the variables involved with the transition to pet parenthood and make sure you’re equipped to care for a pet for the rest of their life.

Jodi Helmer

Jodi Helmer is a North Carolina-based freelance writer who shares her home with an embarrassing number of rescue dogs and relies on four feral cats to patrol the barn. When she isn’t refilling food and water dishes, Jodi writes about animals for Scientific American, Sierra, WebMD, AKC Family Dog, Living the Country Life, and Out Here.

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