In this article, I try to develop some simple and common-sense guidelines to help you pick the perfect pet for your family. Your best information, however, will come from a conversation with one of our adoption counsellors.
- Even though they are very cute, it's often smart to adopt an adult animal rather than a puppy or kitten. Puppies and kittens generally require more work (e.g., housetraining) while most mature animals have already learned appropriate bathroom behavior. In addition, kittens and puppies, being playful, don't always know what to claw, chew on, or play with. Many folks complain when kittens claw the furniture, ruining a new sofa; and an experience near to home saw two puppies, bored while my wife and I were at work, chew the knobs off our stove in the kitchen, where we had them during the day.
- Whichever animal you select, you need to spend time with the animal before adopting. This is especially true where children are involved. You need to do your own version of "temperment testing." Children often shriek out unexpectedly, run into and around animals, and can do things that some animals will see as threatening. You need to monitor your child as you evaluate how well your child and an adoptable animal relate with each other. If you expect the child to "be responsible" for the pet, then make sure you have an understanding ahead of time as to what that will entail (feeding the animal is always a good start!)
- Make sure your pet has a place in the home where they can go and feel safe. In our home, this spot is under my bed. When the animal is there, his message to me LOUD AND CLEAR is "I need a little space. Give me some time." Your space in the house could be a crate, bed or simply a rug in a quiet corner. Your child needs to understand that this is the pet's space, just as their room is their space.
- Avoid troublesome breeds. If you have young children, you should do some research to see if the breed you are looking for is appropriate to younger children. Make sure you tell your adoption counsellor about your family situation. They will make sure you select a pet that is appropriate for your home. For cats, some breeds are easier (and more affectionate) to raise than others. Paw Nation has a nice article on the twelve friendliest cat breeds. Petfinder also has a nice description of the characteristics of various cat breeds.
- Don't rush. We want you to adopt a shelter pet. Our mission includes taking animals that will otherwise be put down in a "kill" shelter and giving them a safe home with us until they are adopted. But you need to seriously consider the economics and responsibilities of pet ownership. Our goal is to place the right pet into the right home, and we have adoption advisors available daily to help you identify the appropriate pet for you. Pet costs you need to consider include things like vaccinations, heartworm medication, flea/tick prevention, good quality food, annual vet visits, spay/neuter, boarding and a variety of other things. Further, if you adopt an "active" dog breed, you will need to make sure you either have room for your dog to run, or commit to taking regular walks with your dog.
The Georgia SPCA is attempting to help with responsible pet ownership by offering low-cost vaccination clinics and low cost spay/neuter options. But families need to take these costs into consideration. As you consider your next (or first pet), we have a number of resources you may find helpful that go significantly beyond the scope of this article. These are listed below: