Eight questions you should ask before adopting a pet
Written by Donna C. Gregory
It may be hard to resist the playful antics of a cute kitten or the soft brown eyes of a fuzzy puppy, but animal rescue organizations encourage potential adopters to think hard before bringing home a new family member.
There’s even more of an impetus to adopt a pet when one considers that approximately four million dogs and cats are euthanized in animal shelters each year, according to the Humane Society of the United States.
But pet ownership is serious business, and not for those with fleeting hearts. Below are a few questions to ask before signing those adoption papers:
Why do you want to adopt a pet? Are you looking for companionship? Has your child been begging for a pet? Does your current pet want a companion? Are you hoping to replace a lost pet? Do you want a running partner? Determining your reasons for adopting will help you narrow down the best type and breed of pet for your lifestyle.
What type or breed of pet is the best fit? The Richmond SPCA has partnered with the ASPCA to develop the “Meet Your Match” questionnaire, which helps match available animals with potential adopters. “We do a personality assessment of the dogs and cats in our care when they come to us, and we have spent a lot of time working on that personality assessment, making it pretty accurate,” says Richmond SPCA CEO Robin Robertson Starr. Visit richmondspca.org, click on “Adopt” and then scroll down the page to take the quiz, or search online for “find the right pet quiz” or “dog breed quiz.” “Try to match your lifestyle and your commitment,” recommends Nancy Brown, president of the Chesterfield Humane Society. For example, “you wouldn’t want to get an old dog for a child, or a Yorkie if you want to run [with the dog].”
Do you have time for a pet? Pets require daily food and water, exercise and attention. If you travel regularly or you’re constantly shuttling the kids around town, a pet may not be a good fit for your lifestyle.
Can you afford a pet? The first year of pet ownership typically costs $1,000 to $2,000 for the average dog or cat, according to the ASPCA, with food, spaying/neutering, pet insurance, training and supplies all adding to the bills. And that figure only includes routine expenses—it doesn’t factor in unexpected illnesses, which can cost extra thousands.
Are you in it for the long haul? Adopting a pet is a lifetime commitment. Indoor cats can live to be more than 20 years old, and the average lifespan for a dog is 12.8 years. “You’re talking about a good chunk of your life that you’re going to dedicate to this pet,” says Jane Beall, board member with Lab Rescue of Greater Richmond.
Is my housing suitable for a pet? If you’re renting, does your landlord allow pets? Are there restrictions on the size or breed? If you own your home, some homeowners’ insurance companies refuse to cover certain breeds, such as pit bulls
Are you willing to pet-proof your home? Common household items, like holiday decorations, plants and knickknacks, can be dangerous for pets. Are you willing to adjust your décor for your pet’s safety?
Are your children ready for a pet? Parents should consider delaying the adoption of a pet if their children aren’t old enough to properly handle or help care for an animal. Brown recommends waiting until your child is at least three years old, and advises supervising the child’s first interactions with the dog, cat or whichever animal you choose.
“One of the big things people need to think about is to please go to their local animal shelter first,” Beall says. “There are millions of animals that are euthanized every year that shouldn’t be.”
Ready to take the next step?
Many local animal shelters and rescue groups list adoptable pets at petfinder.com