So you watched the ASPCA commercial with the sad Sarah Mclachlan song, and now you’re determined to adopt the most forlorn-looking shelter pet you can find. While your commitment to adopting a homeless pet is truly commendable—we’ve all felt that gut punch at the shelter that made us want to take home every animal—pet ownership is a lifelong commitment that requires planning, preparation, and realistic expectations. To help you through the process of pet adoption, our Sale Creek Veterinary Services team is sharing four steps to help ensure a successful pet adoption. 

#1: Know your why for adopting a pet

When you bring home a pet from an animal shelter, you become an advocate for pet adoption, which allows you to share your experience and encourage others to also adopt pets. Pet adoption has become much more popular—a wonderful thing—but misconceptions about shelter pets still abound that you can correct. For example, shelter pets are not broken, and they do not all have behavioral or health issues. Sure, some have been traumatized and neglected and likely will require extra support, but others are socially well-adjusted and easy to care for. The shelter staff—or adoption agency—will work with you to understand your needs and the kind of pet you are looking for, and can suggest potential good fits based on what they know about the pets in their care. Talk with the staff, learn more about the importance of pet adoption, share your experience with others, and become a knowledgeable resource for those considering pet adoption. Identifying your “why” for choosing adoption—for example, saving a life or reducing pet overpopulation—will help you down the road when you face the inevitable challenges of raising a pet, and help inspire others to also adopt. 

#2: Consider your lifestyle and research potential pets

Some people who are adopting a pet fail to consider their lifestyle and research the kind of pet that would make the best fit. Resist the temptation of simply walking into an animal shelter and falling head over heels for a pet’s sad eyes, because your emotions will likely take over, you’ll forget any rational thoughts, and you‘ll find yourself taking home a new family member who may or may not be a good fit. The goal of pet adoption is to find an animal a forever home that meets their needs, as well as their owner’s. An adopted pet who is returned to the shelter suffers undue stress, so take your time to choose a pet you know you can commit to for life. Before heading to the shelter, reflect on these factors that will influence your choice of pet:

  • Time — Do you have the time a pet requires for their daily care, and the attention, daily exercise, and training they need? If you work outside the home or travel often, who will care for your pet while you are away?
  • Experience — Have you had a pet before, or will this be your first one? Will you be comfortable caring for a pet with behavioral or medical issues? Do you have a support system who can offer resources and advice as you navigate pet ownership?
  • Resources — Do you have the financial resources for a pet’s supplies, veterinary care, food, and ongoing costs (e.g., vaccinations, flea, tick, and heartworm prevention products, grooming)? Are you prepared for the costs of a medical emergency?
  • Home size — Do you live on acreage or in an apartment? What pet would be comfortable in your space?
  • Lifestyle — Are you highly active or more of a homebody? What pet personality would match your energy?

Once you have a good understanding of your lifestyle, you can research adoptable pets online for their personality type and needs. You can also reach out to a pet adoption agency or shelter, and ask the staff if any pets who may be a good fit are available. Be open to different kinds of pets, and the adoption staff will be able to more easily match you with a pet with the personality you are looking for. 

#3: Gather essential pet supplies

Before bringing a pet home, ensure you have the necessary supplies for their safety and comfort. You don’t need to buy out the pet supply store, but do purchase the following essentials:

  • Pet food
  • Food and water bowls
  • Leash and collar
  • Pet gates
  • Comfortable bed
  • Treats 
  • Chew toys
  • Grooming supplies

As you get to know your new pet, you can purchase more supplies based on their needs, but having these essentials on hand before you bring them home will make the transition much easier. 

#4: Have patience and compassion for your new pet

You’ve done your research, purchased supplies, and worked with shelter staff for a great fit, and now you are finally bringing home your new pet. Set realistic expectations for yourself and your pet, and take things slowly to help your pet adjust to a new environment. Establish a routine from day one to give your pet consistency—predictability helps pets adapt more quickly to change. Set up a retreat in your home for your pet to decompress if they become overwhelmed. Once your pet becomes familiar with your home and family, slowly begin introducing them to friends and family and new environments. Be patient and compassionate, and know that you and your pet will have challenges along the way, but time, consistency, and support will help ensure your pet will soon be comfortable in their new life. 

After the first few days at home, schedule a veterinary appointment for your new pet at Sale Creek Veterinary Services. Our team can provide a thorough health assessment to identify any health concerns, provide support and resources, and develop a plan for your pet’s lifelong care and wellbeing.