Ready to Adopt? How to Choose the Perfect Pet for Your Family

Author: DVM cVMA Dana Hogg

January 30, 2023

Adopting a pet can be a wonderful and exciting time for all involved! As you likely know, there is sadly a constant abundance of animals available for adoption, and they aren’t just dogs and cats. Birds, reptiles, small mammals, and even farm animals can all find themselves in need of a new home for one reason or another.

When considering the adoption of a pet, it is extremely easy to get overwhelmed by all the animals in need. Sometimes this can cause us to get caught up in the moment and take on more than we can handle. After all, we want all of them to find loving permanent homes. Considering your lifestyle and future are some of the best ways to set both you and the potential adoptee up for a successful lifelong relationship.   

What’s Your Type? 

Before we jump into the fine details, the first step is to determine the type of animal you want to adopt. Different species of animals have different requirements, some of which are much more tedious than others. Younger animals, such as puppies and kittens, can require a lot of training and consistency. Geriatric animals may come with medical issues which will require long-term management and more veterinary visits.

Exotic animals, such as reptiles and birds, have very specific husbandry requirements that must be met to ensure proper health. Some species, like parrots and tortoises, can live 50+ years and may well outlive you. With these types of species, we urge pet parents to have a plan in place should something happen as this will make big transitions much smoother for that animal.  

Think About Your Lifestyle

Considering your lifestyle is a significant factor when determining what pet to adopt as it will impact your final decision. If you lead a busy life where you work 12–14-hour days or travel a lot, then a dog may not be the best choice for you as they often need frequent exercise and bathroom breaks. There are of course options to accommodate a dog’s needs in this scenario such as doggie daycare, pet sitters, or boarding facilities.

Do you have small children or other animals to consider in your home? If you do, then you will want to find an animal that gets along with both before committing to the adoption. Species and breed dispositions are important to consider as well. While we do not like to “label” an animal based on their breed, it is helpful to know breed characteristics. Animals such as terriers, tend to have high prey drives. This means that houses with small mammals such as rabbits or sometimes even cats may not be the best fit for this species.

If you do not lead an active lifestyle, you may want to steer clear of certain breeds like herding or working breed dogs that require a lot of exercise and enrichment. They often need a “job”.

Pet Personality 

Animal temperament is extremely important to consider when integrating a potential pet into your life especially when your household includes other people or animals. It is always recommended to research the rescue/shelter you plan to adopt from and learn their approach to animal health care. Do they do temperament testing to determine if an animal is food-aggressive, cat-friendly, child friendly, and so on? If they do, then what does that specifically entail? The more you are around an animal, the more likely you will pick up on certain behaviors yourself.

We see a lot of animals for adoption with varying ranges of anxiety. An anxious animal can display their anxiety through aggression, fear, and even destruction. Finding out the animal’s history before adoption can also provide insight into its behavior and temperament. 

While it is not impossible to behaviorally modify an animal, sometimes trying to mold an animal with behavioral issues into your home can prove difficult. It can lead to frustration from both the human and the animal and potentially cause some damage to the human-animal bond. When situations like these arise, seeking help from a local trainer or veterinarian can be very beneficial. Being proactive and planning how you will manage any potential concerns is a must.

Review Your Finances

Consider your financial situation. Like us, animals can develop medical conditions requiring lifelong management, which can quickly add up financially. If you are considering adopting a pet with multiple ailments, be realistic about the medical expenses involved and prepare a budget for those costs. We recommend at a minimum, annual wellness appointments with your veterinarian for all animals. At these preventative care appointments, vaccines, preventative medicines, and routine lab screenings will be discussed.

While pet insurance may not be for everyone, it is always something to consider when adopting a new pet. Although diagnosed conditions are often considered “pre-existing” conditions, pet insurance can still prove to be beneficial for a new medical diagnosis or accident which may occur. 

Summary

When you adopt a pet, you are committing to providing them with a loving and hopefully lifelong home. Evaluating all of these factors when adopting a pet helps set both the animal and human up for success and reduces the risk of relinquishment. However, even with proper planning, integrating a new pet into the household can still be challenging. Know that there are trainers, behaviorists, and veterinarians out there who can help you with that transition should you need it.

Not all adoptions work out for one reason or another, and that is ok, do not feel ashamed if you must return an animal to the rescue. If you are on the fence about a specific animal and need further guidance, do not hesitate to reach out to your veterinarian as they likely will be happy to provide you with some pre-adoption counseling.

Dr. Dana Hogg graduated in 2015 from North Carolina State University. She grew up in Wilson, North Carolina. Growing up with several animals, Dr. Hogg was drawn to the field of veterinary medicine at a young age. She completed her undergraduate degree at NCSU in 2009 and her master's degree in 2011.

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