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Adopting a Pet: Choose Wisely

Updated on March 19, 2018
DzyMsLizzy profile image

Liz loves animals. Seeing them ill, hurt, or killed breaks her heart. She advocates for "adopt, don't shop" and TNR programs for feral cats.

Why Adopt?

Every animal rescued from a shelter, or even off the street is a good thing, and if you are the one who did the adopting or rescuing, that's a feather in your cap, and my hat is off to you!

There are, however, many things to carefully consider before you bring a pet home, especially if it is a very-first-pet.

I want you aware, so that you will not be disappointed or discouraged. I want the animal to have a forever home, and not be a shelter yo-yo.

Sometimes, the Animal Chooses You, And Not the Other Way Around

Our "Jigsaw Puzzle" chose us--he came to us wounded, and asking for help
Our "Jigsaw Puzzle" chose us--he came to us wounded, and asking for help

First, Be Sure You Really Want a Pet

There is nothing, but nothing worse than the sight of row upon row of barking dogs and sad cats in cages at animal shelters, waiting to be either adopted or far worse, killed for no better reason than lack of space to house them.

So, before you go out and invite a pet into your home, be sure and take all of the needs of that animal into consideration. This means not only the day you bring them home, but also all of their food, veterinary care, shelter and exercise for the rest of their lives!

You do not want to be among those surrendering your pet to the woes of shelter life simply because you failed to plan ahead or anticipate the needs and yes, expense, of having a companion animal.

Nothing is more rewarding than a furry hello after a bad day at work; nothing will cheer you up or comfort you better than a lap full of a non judgemental friend when you are sad. Nothing beats the shared warmth on a cold winter's night.

But you must be prepared for the responsibilities as well as the rewards. As with all else in life, there are two sides to everything. Adopting an animal is a lifetime commitment.

You are agreeing to care for that animal for the rest of its natural life. It is no less a responsibility than adopting a child. You don't toss them aside because they become inconvenient, expensive, or misbehave.

Do Not Rush Into the Selection

First and foremost, don't let yourselves be swayed by your childrens' pleas to have a cute kitty or puppy or bunny. This is not a decision for children. Things to consider first are the ages of your kids, and how many you have.

Research the animals and breeds within species that interest you. If you have 3 or 4 or 5 young children running around, a small, easily excitable dog such as a Chihuahua might not be the best choice--not to mention danger to the animal from well-meaning kids being too rough with a small and delicately-framed dog. This is a family where a larger, more placid dog would be a better choice.

Likewise for cats. In most cases, adult cats don't care for a lot of wild running around, unless it is themselves doing the running. Therefore, with younger kids, a kitten is a better choice, for they love to play. But again, care must be taken that the youngsters are at least old enough to understand to be gentle with kitty, for kittens are delicate, and can be harmed by over-eager hugs.

Rescued From a Family Who Could Not Keep Her

Delila was a rescued dog, from a family who moved to a 'no pets' place
Delila was a rescued dog, from a family who moved to a 'no pets' place

The Animal is YOURS, Not the Kid's!

Too many parents get an animal "for the children" to "teach them responsibility." This scenario has "Bad idea" written all over it. Like it or not, you will be the one doing the shopping for supplies, feeding, picking up the waste, driving to the vet for vaccinations and checkups.

Small children cannot be expected to help or take much responsibility beyond taking a food bowl from your hands to set on the floor; if they happen to be in the area at feeding time. They may once in a while like to brush the animal, but don't expect them to take it on as a regular chore.

Older children can (and should) accept more responsibility, and should be encouraged to help, especially if they were the ones adding any pressure to the decision (although as I mentioned, you should not give in to this tactic).

Beautiful, Fluffy Kitten; Beware Those Soulful Eyes!

We were fostering Little Miss Fuzz for our local rescue group but she stole our hearts, and  stayed with us, becoming what is known as a "foster failure"
We were fostering Little Miss Fuzz for our local rescue group but she stole our hearts, and stayed with us, becoming what is known as a "foster failure" | Source

Those Sweet, Soulful Eyes!

Who has not felt their heart melt looking into the depths of the sweet, innocent eyes of a puppy or kitten? None but the most hard-hearted and inhumane among the population.

Don't let those trickster's eyes deceive you. That adorable puppy or kitten will grow up. If they are treated well, they will be a wonderful friend and just as sweet. However, just as with human babies, that "sweet baby" appearance will go away and morph into the adult form. They will be just as lovable, and beautiful as ever in the eyes of those who love them back.

I know this is a perfectly obvious thing--the trouble is, many people fall for that 'cuteness,' and then don't want the animal anymore when it grows up. This is a terrible thing--don't kid yourselves for a moment...animals feel pain, including emotional pain. Just like us, they get scared, feel lonely, and suffer stress when their familiar routine is disrupted and their surroundings suddenly change.

So again, be sure that you are willing to make that life-long commitment.

Take Some Time To Get Acquainted

When you go to meet your potential new friend, bring all the family members with you. By all means, take time to visit with the prospective pet in any 'get acquainted' area provided by the shelter or rescue organization. And by 'take time,' I mean take time. This is not something to be rushed in 5 minutes. Spend at least half an hour or an hour.

Observe the animal. Notice its interactions and reactions to all the family members. If there appears to be a conflict, or fear on either side, this is not the pet for you.

It may take several attempts, several searches, several meetings with various animals. Considering that this will be a comittment of several years' standing, the first stages must not be rushed.

Adopt, don't shop! Save a life!

Be Prepared

Once you have finished the process of deciding what kind of pet you want, and before you go looking is the time to shop for basic supplies. You will need at a minimum:

  • food and water bowls
  • harness and leash (primarily for dogs, but cats can also learn to walk on a leash)
  • bedding
  • toys
  • grooming supplies, including a brush and nail trimmers
  • a litter pan and litter for cats

You need all these things first! On the way home with an already nervous animal in the car is not the time to stop off and go shopping for the supplies!

In any case, it is very dangerous to the animal to leave it locked up in the car. Every year, many animals are killed by heat stroke. It does not take long for the inside temperature in a car to reach to 120° Fahrenheit, even on a cool day.

Cracking the window open does not help. Leaving the window all the way down is asking for trouble in so many ways--from the pet escaping or being stolen, to your entire car and contents being stolen.

Not one of those scenarious would be a good beginning for your new friend--so please--shop for all the supplies before you go to pick out your pet.

Be Sure of the Reputation

There are many irresponsible and even some illegal sources of companion animals. It pays to be very careful where you choose and adopt your pet.

I would be very wary of Craigslist or other online ads. While they may be legitimate listings, these ads are also often a 'dumping ground' for stolen animals.

If you are adopting from a shelter, inspect their facility--is it clean and as odor-free as possible, given the hundreds of animals that pass through, or does it have filth caked halfway up the walls and have a strong enough smell to gag you? In the first case, go ahead and check out their animals. If the second case is true however, run, don't walk, far away.

If you must insist on a purebred pet, ask at your local shelter. It is not true that there are never purebreds at shelters. Many are surrendered each year.

If you must buy from a breeder, check the their reputation and ask for references. If the person does not want you to see their facility, that is a huge red flag. Run away!

Local specialty rescue groups are a better option than breeders for a loyal family pet, if you must have a purebred. They are acting out of genuine love and concern for the animals.

Avoid pet stores at all costs! These animals are bred in puppy and kitten "mills" without real concern for the animals; their main goal is to make a quick buck on rapid turnaround. The females are frequently malnourished and simply used as breeding machines until they are worn out.


Since this article was originally written, California has passed a law that dogs, cats, and rabbits offered for sale in pet stores MUST come from shelters and rescue organizations, and not from breeders or kitten/puppy mills.

While I applaud this, it is nonetheless regrettable that, although the law was signed on October 13th, 2017, it is not set to become effective until January of 2019!

California is the first state to pass such a law, and it is a huge step in getting rid of these abusive "pet factories." I only hope other states soon follow suit.

© 2012 Liz Elias


Submit a Comment

  • DzyMsLizzy profile image

    Liz Elias 5 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Thank you, Golden Field, for the compliment. I'm pleased you found the article useful and interesting.

  • profile image

    Golden Field 5 years ago

    Great advise, and great picures, too. Could you maybe take a look at my hubs?

  • DzyMsLizzy profile image

    Liz Elias 6 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Hello, Eddy,

    I'm delighted that you so enjoyed this article! Thank you very much, indeed. You have a wonderful day, too!

  • Eiddwen profile image

    Eiddwen 6 years ago from Wales

    Oh how I love this hub and have to bookmark into favourite Hubs slot.

    I wish you a great day.


  • DzyMsLizzy profile image

    Liz Elias 6 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Hello, tbrian123

    Awww...3 beautitful kittens saved. Thank you so much! You are so correct that they are priceless, without having cost you a dime. We adopted our youngest kittens from the rescue agency where I volunteer--they were also tiny babies, but the person who turned them in had found them abandoned in a field. It just made me so angry!

    Thanks for sharing your story, and thank you again for helping to save "anipals."

  • tbrian123 profile image

    tbrian123 6 years ago from colombo, Sri Lanka

    I have 3 kittens. And i found them on the street. So didn't cost me even a $1. But now I'm really happy with them. Can't even guess the value of them :) anyway Very Nice Hub. Bookmarking this one for sure!

  • DzyMsLizzy profile image

    Liz Elias 6 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Hello, mary615--

    Thank you so much for your comment. I'm so happy you enjoyed the article. I congratulate and applaud you on your rescue efforts.

    For our own current physical condition, dogs have become too "high-maintenance," so we now rescue cats. It is, indeed, rewarding, and the companionship of our dear 'fur children' relieves much stress.

  • mary615 profile image

    Mary Hyatt 6 years ago from Florida

    I enjoyed this Hub very much. You have some good information here. I have fostered and rescued many dogs, it's very rewarding.

  • DzyMsLizzy profile image

    Liz Elias 6 years ago from Oakley, CA

    (Ack--my computer monitor had died, and I was trying to reply from my Nook e-reader. I don't own a cell phone, so I'm not accustomed to single-finger typing on a small screen! Please pardon the typos!)

  • DzyMsLizzy profile image

    Liz Elias 6 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Hello again, jkenny,

    What a great chaity that sounds like, and what a wonderful slogan!

    I may jist have to borrow that for the animal rescue group I volunteer with.

    Again, thnaks for the votes!

  • JKenny profile image

    James Kenny 6 years ago from Birmingham, England

    Great hub Lizzy, full of great advice. Too often people forget that cats and dogs are living creatures with thoughts and feelings, instead they think of them as toys, and like dressing them up. In England, we have a charity called the Dogs Trust that rescues abandoned dogs and cats, they never put a healthy dog down, and their slogan is: 'A Dog is for life, not just for Christmas'. Voted up etc.

  • DzyMsLizzy profile image

    Liz Elias 6 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Hi, Simone--

    Thanks very much for commenting and backing up that point.

  • Simone Smith profile image

    Simone Haruko Smith 6 years ago from San Francisco

    Such good advice! One thing you've pointed out here that I haven't read elsewhere is the importance of realizing that any adopted pet is YOURS- not your kid's. Anyone adopting a pet should do so thinking that nobody else is going to care for it.

  • DzyMsLizzy profile image

    Liz Elias 6 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Hello, alexadry--

    Thank you so much for the great compliment. I'm so delighted you enjoyed the article.

  • alexadry profile image

    Adrienne Janet Farricelli 6 years ago from USA

    What a great hub! Loved it from top to bottom, best wishes!

  • DzyMsLizzy profile image

    Liz Elias 6 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Hi there, RealHousewife--

    Thanks very much for adding your comment. How neat that your dogs understand taking turns. ;-)

    I don't know much of anything about birds--except that a childhood friend had a bird, and it was an extremely messy pet; her mother had to sweep up spilled seed and drifting feathers several times each day! So, personally, I prefer birds in the wild. ;-)

  • RealHousewife profile image

    Kelly Umphenour 6 years ago from St. Louis, MO

    All great advice! I love my animals and I just realized none of my kids are territorial about one in particular:) they are all family pets. The girls take turns sleeping with the dogs at night!

    I adopted a cat many years ago and she's still bestowing gifts at the doorstep:) lol. I love the advice of several meetings before bringing an animal home.

    When I bought my bird from a special breeder - he was hatched for us. My hubad and I would go visit and hold him every week and by the time he came home he knew our smell and us. He is a wonderful African Grey and he's multi person.