So you’re ready to bring a fur ball of love home? Has Sarah McLachlan finally pulled you in? While adopting a new pet can be exciting for any family, many disregard the importance of preparation for their newest addition. The adoption experts from Houston’s fastest growing No Kill animal shelter - Friends For Life - are here to shed light on the 5 most important steps to take BEFORE adopting a pet.
- Answer this question honestly: Do you really want a pet?
At this point, your answer may be a resounding, “YES!”, but have you really thought about it? Pets are like family, and while you love them (or at least we hope you do) everyday will be different. Keep in mind, adopting a pet is typically a 10 to 15 year commitment. If you get a new spouse who isn’t a fan of cats, will you return the pet to the shelter without working towards a compromise? What if your dog jumps on you with muddy paws before work? Do you think you’d be willing to look past the misbehavior? What if it happened again? If your toddler shattered your tablet, you’d be undoubtedly justified in your frustration, but you wouldn’t return him or her to the hospital (hopefully.) A committed pet owner is prepared to accept the good and the bad. While No Kill shelters like Friends For Life provide a safe haven for abandoned or unwanted pets, shelter should never be an animal’s indefinite home. If you’re considering adopting a pet, chances are they’ve spent time and become attached to multiple families. The constant environment change can be detrimental on an animal’s psyche. To avoid this scenario, Friends For Life Adoption specialists ensure potential adopters are ready to make a lifetime commitment and won’t become easily shaken by isolated incidents. The shelter even offers support for those having any behavior issues with their pets.
- Determine Duties If you’re still firm in your desire for a new pet after answering the previous question, you’ll need to answer one more: who will take care of the pet? Perhaps you’re single and will take sole responsibility. Does your work schedule permit walking a dog multiple times a day? Will your dog be forced to stay alone for over 7 hours every day during the week? Remember that puppies need to be taken out every 3-4 hours. There are doggie day cares available in Houston that may be a great option for some.If you’re in a family, you may expect everyone to pitch in, but it’s important to get a clear understanding of everyone’s responsibilities. Adopters interested in cats may incorrectly assume their less of a time commitment than dogs, but cats require attention, playtime, vet visits, and clean up just like dogs. Kittens require even more attention, like designated playtimes in the morning and afternoons for social development. Try going through your daily activities while incorporating the responsibility of caring for a pet. If you struggle to create open time slots on your jam-packed schedule, you may need to rethink adopting at this moment.
- Establish a Budget
Financial planning is an important part of the new pet equation. Caring for a pet requires more than the a regular food purchase. In fact, pets require annual immunization shot and wellness vaccines. Dogs must be on heartworm prevention, as well as monthly prescriptions for flea prevention. There are lower costs clinics available to get these maintenance items done and Friends For Life has compiled a complete resource list.
Typically, vaccines will be current at the time of adoption, but it’ll be your responsibility to keep your pet’s health records up-to-date for the remainder of their lifetime. Thinking about boarding your pet for vacations or a business trip? You’ll need to be sure to check with the kennel to see what vaccines they require before you board your pet.
Keep in mind adopting puppies is an even larger financial commitment with booster vaccines required during the first year. If your pup is not fixed, factor in spay and neutering cost. The higher end veterinary clinics offer procedures for up to $500 depending on the sex (females are always more) and weight of the animal. More economical clinics offer procedures around $100. Check out lower cost options list are available, here.
Programs like SNAP (Spay Neuter Assistance Program) are also available to families who need additional assistance in covering procedure costs. Owning a pet can be affordable, but make sure you have room in your budget to offer your pet the best care.
- Get All the Necessary Equipment
Obviously you’ll need certain pet supplies for your newest addition. Make sure to get them before you bring your pet home. Things like a collar, leash, and walk harness are commonly known necessities, but don’t forget about name tags, food and water bowls, and a pet bed. One of the most important purchases will be the pet’s food. Cheaper is not always better. Would you feed your family healthy, fresh food or processed fast food? The same theme should carry over to your pet. Look for brands with protein as the first ingredient and do your research.
It’s also key to keep your pet in a safe confined environment when you first bring them home. Limiting your pet’s space in the first few days they’re home will help them not to be overwhelmed. Confining them through the initial period is safer not just for your pet but potentially for your shoes, couch, or carpet! You can purchase a kennel or allocate an empty room in the house for your new pet to stay in while you’re away. Be sure the kennel is large enough for your pet to stand up and turn around. Monitor the pet as it free roams the house after the first few weeks of adoption.
- Have 'The Talk' With Your Current Pets
You read it correctly. Your old pets need to be prepared for a new brother or sister! A proper introduction is the most important step to seamlessly adding a new pet to your family. Consider the personality of your current pet(s) and their past reactions to being around other animals. Whether introducing a dog to a dog, dog to cat, or cat to cat, make sure your pets hear and smell each other before actually seeing each other. For example, confine your dog to one room or one level of your house when you first bring your new cat home. Allow your cat to safely explore his new palace and sniff your dog’s beds and toys. So your dog can become better acquainted with your new cat, take an old towel, rub it on your cat and put it in the room with the dog. This is a safe way to gauge how intrigued your dog is to the cat’s presence. If you have a hard time pulling your dog away from the towel with the cat’s scent, imagine how intensely he may fixate on the actual cat! This could be extremely frightening to a cat who would undoubtedly feel the need to defend themselves. Don’t start World War III in your home. Play it safe by repeating the “towel” process a few times with both pets.
This method should also be utilized when introducing two pets of the same species. Closely monitor the first several physical interactions of your pets before ever leaving them alone together.
Being a pet owner is certainly one of the most unique and rewarding experiences any family can share. Make your transition into parenthood a little easier by being prepared!
If you’re in the Greater Houston area, check out adoption events hosted by Friends For Life every weekend.