If you have decided to take the plunge and adopt a pet, congratulations! Whether you’re a first-time pet owner or a veteran adopter, finding the right cat or dog to add to your household can be a challenge. After all, there are so many animals out there that are looking for a forever home (just take a peek at all of the adorable faces at Atlanta Humane!) that you may find yourself unable to choose just one. But no, you can’t adopt them all. The most important thing to remember is that adopting an animal is a serious commitment. Pet ownership takes time, money, and energy. But it’s also extremely rewarding when you find the right match.
When searching for the right pet, the first question you should ask yourself is: am I ready for a pet? In other words:
• Do you have time to raise a pet? Your dog needs to be walked. Your cat would like you to throw the jingly ball. If you find yourself constantly busy and away from home, adopting a pet means you’ll have to adjust your routine to accommodate your pet’s needs. Like all relationships, your relationship with your pet will take time.
• Can you afford a pet right now? Food, litter, dog walkers, toys, vet visits, obedience classes, and grooming all add up. By a conservative estimate, you can expect to spend $1,000/year for cats and $2,500/year for dogs on these expenses, according to Money Under 30. Other increasingly common issues for pet parents who rent is paying for pet rent and finding a place that accepts their pets. Check with your landlord for these details, and consider that owning a pet may prevent you from renting some properties.
• Do you have the energy to welcome a pet into your home? It will take time for you and your pet to adjust to one another. There will be potty accidents, maybe some chewed-up rugs, and potentially even sibling rivalry between your new fur baby and your existing one. These challenges can be frustrating to deal with but are well worth the love, purrs, and licks you’ll receive once you’ve moved past them.
If your answer to all of the above questions is ‘yes,’ then you’re probably ready to adopt. But, the question remains: how do you choose when all the options are so incredibly cute? As the old adage goes, “don’t judge a book by its cover.” Looks are hardly the deal-maker. You also need to consider age, personality, and energy level. A good way to parse out these preferences is to think about a pet (maybe the neighbor’s dog or your roommate’s cat) who you’ve met and whose company you really enjoyed. Think about their traits and look for an animal that shares those characteristics.
Age: Would you rather adopt a puppy/kitten or an adult dog/cat? Would you consider adopting a senior? Raising a pet from a young age is much more time-consuming and expensive than owning an adult pet and, not to mention, the adult and senior animals have typically mellowed out and will be less prone to zoomies and scratches at the bedroom door in the wee hours of the morning.
Personality: This choice has a lot to do with what you imagine your relationship will be like with your pet. Are you looking for a low-key and independent pet or one that won’t leave your lap cold for a minute? Another thing to consider is the personality of the other pets in your home and how they might mesh with the newcomer. For example, a more shy animal may not thrive well with many siblings. Sometimes organizations will note if an animal is friendly with other cats, dogs, and young children. This can be important information to determine if a new pet would be compatible with the rest of your family.
Energy level: There’s a big difference between owning a pug and a Siberian husky, and it’s not just about the size. Pets and breeds that are high energy are the types that need regular exercise and enrichment, or else they’ll take that excess energy out on your home and your belongings. But if you’re an active person yourself, owning a high-energy pet may be a great fit. The opposite is true as well; if you’re a homebody, you would do better with a pet who is on the same wavelength.
If you’ve read this information and still feel indecisive, don’t despair! Many organizations, including Atlanta Humane, offer “foster-first” options that allow you to temporarily foster an animal and see if they are the right fit for you. If you hit it off, you can choose to adopt. If not, there is no commitment to keep the animal and you can continue on your search for the perfect match. Good luck!