What to Consider when Adopting?
There is a lot to think about before bringing home a new furry family member. Click on one of the topics below or scroll through to help figure out what kind of cat or dog will both best suit your life and you theirs.
Whether a homeowner or renter, there is a lot to consider
how a new animal will fit into your home.
If you rent, what is the pet policy written on your lease? Are there size restrictions? Breed restrictions? Restrictions on how many pets you can have? You should figure this out prior to looking for a new pet. Condo associations can have similar restrictions.
What is the size of your home? Certain animals, like large or active dogs and curious and playful cats, want lots of room to roam, some may find a large house daunting.
Some animals may try to dart through doors. Rooms, like entryways or attached garages, that lead outdoors but have another door that separates it from the rest of the house are best for escape artist animals. Baby gates and similar barriers can work great with dogs as well.
Do you plan on moving soon? Or have you only recently moved in? Moving, while exciting, is obviously very stressful. You should not adopt if you are planning on moving within the next 6 months or so so that your new pet has a chance to settle in with you. If you have recently moved you should wait to adopt until you feel fully settled into your new home, as it would not be fair to a new animal to have to deal with both their own stress from this new environment and your family's.
Could you offer your cat safe outdoor time? While cats are safest indoors, both to themselves and the environment, some cats argue incessantly for outdoor time. "Catio's" are one of the ways for cats to have a safe time outdoors in a fully enclosed and secure space.
Other options for safe outdoor time with cats is training them to walk on a harness, which can take time and not all cats adjust to, or adding "climb proof" toppers to an already securely fenced in yard and supervising the cat outside.
Do you have a yard? Is it fenced in? Lots of active dogs want to run and play outdoors and may feel cooped up without daily outdoor exercise. While not every dog needs a fenced in yard, certain ones prone to wanderlust would do best with one. Hounds are known for following a smell anywhere, unaware of their family calling them back. Other breeds, like huskies, also can be stricken with wanderlust. For less risky dogs, you can work diligently in recall and boundary training so they can eventually be off leash with you outdoors.
If you live above the first floor in an apartment style building, you need to consider how long a dog can hold their potty on even the walk outside the building! You should look towards at least mostly housebroken dogs who do not lift their leg to mark inside (even some female dogs will do this!).
From car-honking city streets to dead-ends in the middle of the woods, there is so much variety in neighborhoods and so much variety in which one fits an animal.
How noisy is your neighborhood? Many shy, sensitive, or even high strung animals would not do well in a loud area where they hear kids playing, dogs barking, or cars driving by. While no animal typically LIKES these noises, there are many who are simply unbothered by hustle and bustle. In the busy shelter environment it can be seen pretty easily by watching who naps or mindlessly plays with their toys while the other animals hide away or throw a little furry tantrum.
How busy is your street? Whether worried your animal is an escape artist or training your dog the boundaries of the yard, a busy street can be very dangerous to animals. If you live on a dead end road away from any main streets you probably only really need to be worried about wild animals. But if you live on anything more, especially a fast and busy road, you need to be extra cautious with your animals and try to find an animal less likely to dart out of doors. A secure and tall fenced in yard is a dog's best friend on a busy street.
Is there a lot of wildlife around? Many cats have taken up the hobby of "watching TV" through the window. If you are able to, setting up a bird feeder outside their favorite window can be very entertaining for the cats while also giving the local birds a new spot to eat. Just make sure the your new cat is kept indoors so they can only "window shop" the birds!
Where will you exercise and socialize your dog? It's good to have an idea of where you will take your new dog for walks, hikes, and even find a local playgroup even! If you live in the middle of nowhere you probably have plenty of fun area to hike and explore, but want to be sure to keep your dog social with people and other pups by seeing them regularly. On the other side, if you live in the in a city your new dog will regularly see other people and pups on their walks, but it may be hard to find a spot to for your dog to run and let lose.
Time Home Alone
Whether potty training a puppy, cuddling your needy cat, or entertaining your active furball, some animals don't do as well home alone long and some don't mind it.
How long at one time will your new pet be home alone? Some animals don't want to be alone long for many reasons. Any animal may become anxious if their family leaves them, also known as separation anxiety. These animals will need their new family's help learning that being alone is okay. Some animals just want regular entertainment and playtime from their family.
How long in total throughout the day will your new pet be home alone? If you work an 8 hour day and come home for a 30 minute lunch, that will still be 7 and a half hours alone a day. Some animals are fine with this, cats and calmer housebroken dogs especially, but many need more interaction throughout the day. Young cats and dogs are still growing and need plenty of socialization, and shyer animals need plenty of time to bond with their new family.
How often do you travel? If you are out of the house overnight, you will need to find either someone to care for your animals while you are away or a boarding/daycare facility to bring them to while you are gone. Not are animals will be thrilled with a sudden boarding stay, so it's good to plan ahead
Cats in particular are not fans of boarding.
Cats especially do not like to be picked up and dropped into a strange place, no matter how comfy and fancy. You should always first look to get a cat sitter to watch your cat. While the necessities are important (filling food and water, scooping the litter box, etc.) it can be hard on cats to suddenly not have anyone around. It would help if the cat sitter would play with them or even just hang out and watch TV so it will feel a little more normal.
How long between potty breaks? Dogs can only hold their potty for so long! Even a fully housebroken adult should never go longer than 8 hours between potty breaks. If you are out of the house more than 8 hours you will need to either come home for lunch and take the dog out, hire a dog walker or dog sitter, or bring them to doggy daycare. A dog should never be go longer between potty breaks than months they are old (a 6 month old should never go longer than 6 hours). Many older dogs are still getting the hang of housebreaking and need potty breaks often, like puppies, while they continue to learn with the help of their family.
How much exercise will your new pet be getting daily? Some are couch potatoes,
some will keep themselves busy, and some need more hands on entertainment.
Activity levels change with age. Baby animals, typically under 6 months, have no idea how to manage their energy and will simply use it all until they crash for a nap. Adolescents, around 6 months to 2 years, are typically at their peak energy while also not always knowing how to manage it. Young adults, around 2 to 4 years (smaller dogs and cats may push it to 5 or 6 years), have likely learned how to better manage their energy, but may need more assistance learning when to let it out. Adults, over 4 years (5 or 6 for small dogs and cats), will truly start to settle in to who they are and should not have major activity level changes. Seniors, 7 and up (10 and up in small dogs and cats) will start to calm down as they age.
How active are you daily? If you're a couch potato who rarely leaves the house, you need a pet who is happy to snooze the day away and knows how to properly entertain themselves when bored. If you are an athlete on the weekends but sedentary on workdays, you either need an animal who is happy to be sedentary as well or who at least is happy to play by themselves when you're busy. If you are looking for a buddy to play and exercise with daily, you will need someone who is as eager to get up and move as you are.
What happens when an animal doesn't get enough exercise? One of the biggest consequences is stress. Due to stress, an animal may be destructive in ways such as chewing on furniture or ripping their beds and toys. They may also have trouble holding their bladder resulting in more potty accidents. Play could turn rough as they struggle to get all their energy out the first chance they have. Inadequete exercise can be the cause of many behavioral, and even health, issues in animals.
Cats need playtime too! Many midjudge cats as being independent and simply taking care of themselves, beyond feeding and cleaning the litter box of course. Some cats definitely don't mind doing their own thing, but many love playtime with their humans! Active cats love when their humans play with them with cat teaser's and chase toys, some even learn fetch! Lots of climbing structures to explore is also ideal to keep them entertained.
Are you looking for a dog to exercise or go on outdoor adventures with? Many dogs make great running, hiking, or even camping buddies! With proper training, an active dog would thrive as an exercise partner! Young pups, old seniors, and lazy dogs might be overwhelmed.
There are many types of training for animals, some for fun, some for manners, and some to help improve their quality of life. Different training suites different animals.
Interested in adopted an animal who needs some help with manners? Teaching an animal appropriate ways to interact with others is important. Teaching things like dogs to sit instead of jump to get attention and cats what is appropriate to play rough with is important. There are many classes for basic obedience training for dogs and lots of online tips for both.
Want to turn training into a fun game? Many animals, especially food motivated and intelligent ones, love learning "parlor tricks" and the feeling of accomplishment (and tasty treats) that come with it. Teaching fun treats like "paw" or "spin" are simple and rewarding. More active and driven animals might like to take on agility training! There are many classes for dogs and guides online for both on more advanced training.
Ready to take on an animal with behavioral challenges? Lots of research should be done before adopting an animal with a particular behavioral issues, even if you already have firsthand experience. Aggression, reactivity, and fearfulness are often results of past trauma. Sometimes it was one very bad thing that changed their views, or just constant small incidents that consistently confirmed their fears. There are classes available for dogs with behavioral issues, home training is offered for both, and lots of resources online to help get their new family off to a good start.
Looking to send an animal to a Board-and-Train program? While many animals can excel in these programs, nervous or shy animals tend to be shocked. They are particularly helpful in providing outgoing and unruly animals a crash course in manners. There are some who offer behavioral training, but always do research beforehand and consult your veterinarian before making a decision.
While there are rarely training classes for cats, there are ample resources online for a "Do it Yourself" style! There are of course still trainers who will do home visits or consult remotely to help with issues too difficult to tackle alone.
Training is always recommended for dogs.
Even if your new pup is a model citizen, training is a great bonding opportunity and sets up the relationship where your dog will learn to trust and listen to you.
Whether you've never cared for an animal before, have never lived without one, or are a professional trainer, there is the right animal out there for you at your experience level.
Never cared for a pet before?
Want to turn training into a fun game?
Ready to take on an animal with behavioral challenges?