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Adopting a Pet – Cats and Dogs

Nothing beats the love and companionship that a dog or cat can bring into your life. If you've been thinking about adding a cuddly new cat or dog to your household, take some time to think about what type of pet will best suit you, your family and your lifestyle. Depending on what type of pet you're searching for, there are several places you can go to adopt one.

Animal shelters

Animal shelters are good places to find a pet. Each shelter has its own procedures for adoption, so be sure to call local shelters to find out their visiting and adoption hours, fees and other requirements. After you visit the shelter and see a dog or cat you would like to adopt, you'll be asked to fill out an application to assess your needs and limitations. Most shelter animals have been screened for health problems and been given the proper vaccinations. There's usually a cost for adoption, and some shelters offer additional free services such as vaccinations, initial vet check-ups and spay/neuter surgery.

Reputable breeders

If you're interesting in owning a purebred puppy or kitten, finding a reputable breeder in your area is the way to go. A breeder usually specializes in one or two particular breeds of dogs or cats, and you'll go through a screening process to ensure you're able to care for the pet properly. The cost of a purebred dog will vary with its age, quality and breeding stock. You can find the names of reputable breeders in your area by contacting the national society for the breed you are interested in, local clubs, or the American Kennel Club (for dogs) or the Cat Fanciers Breeder Referral List (for cats).

Purebred rescue groups

Another way to find purebred dogs is through a purebred rescue group. Many breed organizations have started these groups to find homes for particular purebred dogs -- for instance, huskies or German shepherds -- that have been turned in at local shelters. You can find rescue groups in your area through the national society for a particular breed or your local animal shelter, or by visiting the American Kennel Club or Cat Fanciers' Association websites.

Pet shops

You can purchase kittens and puppies at your local pet shop, but be careful. Although many pet shops are managed by caring, responsible people, others deal with "puppy mills" where animals are raised in unsanitary and inhumane conditions.

Homeward bound

Once you've found the perfect furry new pal, you'll need to prepare your home for his arrival. Find out what food your new pet has been eating and keep him on that diet at least initially. If you decide to change the type of food, mix the new food gradually with the old to avoid any digestive upsets, such as vomiting or diarrhea. Your veterinarian can make diet recommendations. Make sure your pet has adequate space to play, exercise and sleep. If you have a yard, you might want to consider fencing it in so your new puppy has room to roam. Cats should be kept indoors only - they should not be allowed to roam free. Make an appointment with a veterinarian to start your pet off right on a lifelong health program.

If you already have a pet, you might want to introduce him to your new pet in a place other than your home. Let them get to know each other and play together. Your old pet may feel jealous of the new one, and it will take some time for him to adjust. Be sure to treat both your pets equally -- play with them together and give them treats together.

Pets can bring love, warmth and companionship into your life, and making the decision to adopt one should be a well-thought-out process. Taking the time to consider what type of pet will best fit in with your family and lifestyle will help ensure a lifetime of happiness for both you and your new pet.

Paws for thought

Before you start searching for a new companion, you'll want to ask yourself a few questions. The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) provides answers to some of these questions:

  • What previous experience have you had with a pet?

  • Do you want a dog or a cat?

  • What size dog or cat do you want?

  • Do you have the time to train a new pet and give him the attention he'll need? Dogs, cats, and other animal companions cannot be ignored just because you're tired or busy. They require food, water, exercise, care, and companionship every day of every year. Many animals in the shelter are there because their owners didn't realize how much time it took to care for them.

  • Can you afford the expenses that a pet can bring? The costs of pet ownership can be quite high. Licenses, training classes, spaying and neutering, veterinary care, grooming, toys, food, kitty litter, and other expenses add up quickly.

  • Can you have a pet where you live? Many rental communities don't allow pets, and most of the rest have restrictions. Make sure you know what they are before you bring a companion animal home.

  • Are you prepared to keep and care for the pet for his or her entire lifetime? When you adopt a pet, you are making a commitment to care for the animal for his or her lifetime. If you have major life changes, such as marriage, divorce, childbirth, serious illness or accident, or relocation, your pet is still a part of your family.

Pet adoption organizations

  • The American Kennel Club (AKC) maintains a registry for purebred dogs and is a great place to start your search if you are looking to adopt a purebred puppy. You can visit the AKC website at http://www.akc.org.

  • If you're looking for a purebred cat, visit the Fanciers Breeder Referral List at http://www.breedlist.com to find pedigreed cat breeders in your area. Cat Fanciers is an organization that can help you locate purebred cat rescue groups near you; visit their website at http://www.cfabreedersassist-rescue.org/.

  • The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) are two of the largest animal protection organizations in the country. They offer information on local shelters, pet adoption, and pet care. You can visit the ASPCA website at http://www.aspca.org and HSUS at http://www.hsus.org.