With more than 6.3 million pets entering U.S. animal shelters every year, your new best friend is out there waiting to be found and adopted. At Tamberly Animal Hospital, we believe that pet adoption is one of the kindest ways to repay animals for their gift of unconditional love. And, while we also believe in love at first sight, successful pet adoption requires planning and preparation. 

Here are some quick tips on finding your new forever friend and seamlessly transitioning them into their new home.

Self-inventory—consider what you can offer a pet

Pets are a lifelong commitment who depend on you for shelter, security, food, exercise, and love. Before you begin searching for your next pet, objectively consider what you can offer. Ask yourself these questions: 

  • Can you afford veterinary care? — Research and estimate your potential pet’s routine and emergency care costs. Remember that exotic pets may require a specialist’s care. 
  • Is there room in your monthly budget? — Ongoing costs include food, treats, parasite preventives, vaccinations, toys, litter, cleaning supplies, and services (e.g., grooming, training, boarding).
  • Do you have enough space? — Each species has different environmental needs. Whether your pet lives alongside you or in an aquarium, consider your living arrangements to ensure the right fit—literally.
  • How much time can you devote to your pet? — Pets have varied exercise and social needs, and if you cannot provide adequate exercise and stimulation, your pet may become ill or ill-behaved.

Human seeking pet—what traits are you looking for in a pet?

Dogs and cats may reign as America’s sweethearts in the world of pet ownership, but reptiles, small mammals, and exotic pets are also gaining popularity. After determining the resources you can offer, consider the relationship you’re looking for in a pet. Make a list of the qualities that come to mind, such as:

  • Affectionate
  • Independent
  • Intelligent
  • High-energy
  • Calm
  • Social
  • Quiet
  • Protective
  • Portable (e.g., manageable size for travel and basic care)

Also, consider the other people in your life and home. Does your household include children or elderly family members? Are your other household members agreeable about getting a pet? Does anyone have any allergies or phobias that would make caring for the pet difficult?

Your answers should shape your research. If you’re considering a specific species or breed, contact local or national groups or clubs for recommendations on experts and breeders who can provide first-hand advice.

Interview process—meet your (pet) match

Returning a newly adopted pet to the shelter, rescue group, breeder, or sanctuary is not only heartbreaking for you but also traumatizing for the pet. Pets who are shuffled from home to home often develop anxiety or stress-related behavior issues, decreasing their likelihood of a forever home.

As a potential adopter, your responsibility is ensuring the best possible match, so we recommend searching for your pet through organizations that allow you to spend time with the pet before finalizing the adoption. This includes visiting with or caring for the pet at the shelter, taking the pet home over a weekend or holiday, or taking part in a foster-to-adopt arrangement, which can help you get to know the pet’s personality and form a realistic picture of your life together.

Home sweet home—bringing your pet home

Once you’ve found your perfect match and the adoption has been approved, you need to prepare for the new arrival. Use your research to ensure you have all the necessary care supplies before welcoming your pet, which not only helps you feel prepared, but also ensures you won’t have to run errands during your pet’s initial acclimation.

Set up a dedicated area for your pet based on their species needs (e.g., a reptile enclosure, aquarium, cage, or play pen). Ensure the area is inaccessible to any hazards, including electrical cords, breakable objects, trash cans, cords, and household toxins. Check out these helpful pet-proofing guides for dogs and cats:

  • Who am I? Helping your pet acclimate Remember, you have been researching and planning for your pet’s arrival, but your pet has not had the same preparation. Puppies and kittens will be learning about the world in general, while formerly stray or abused pets may have emotional scars that impair their ability to trust. Regardless of their background, your pet knows only that they’ve arrived in a brand new place, and they’ll need your consistent care, support, and love to make that place their home. 
  • Rule of dog No matter what pet species you bring home, keep in mind the 3-3-3 rule of dog adoption that states that in their first 90 days, your pet needs:
    • 3 days — To feel overwhelmed and nervous
    • 3 weeks — To settle in
    • 3 months — To form a trusting relationship with you
  • Adventure ahead—milestones for your new pet Your pet’s first few weeks will be an adventure for you both. In addition to adjusting to their new surroundings, ensure your pet’s experiences include:
    • Visiting the veterinarian — Your pet’s first appointment is an opportunity to ensure they are healthy, and for you to learn hands-on care and husbandry tips.
    • Training — Every pet requires some training, and you must spend a few minutes every day building value for important behaviors. 
    • Socialization — Gradually introduce your pet to everyday encounters, including handling and restraint, grooming tasks, noises, unfamiliar sights, people, and other pets.

The future looks bright and exciting for your newly adopted pet. For local rescue group or shelter recommendations, or to schedule your new best friend’s first visit, contact Tamberly Animal Hospital.