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Like many children I pestered my parents relentlessly to adopt a puppy or kitten. After years of badgering my dad got a list of unwanted dogs and puppies from the local adoption centre and we welcomed Penny into our lives. She was a scruffy mongrel who was six months old and she became my best friend for 16 years.
Lots of people still use the words ‘rescue puppy’ and ‘rescue kitten’ but I think this tends to make people see pets that are up for adoption as somehow broken goods. It’s easy to assume that if an animal is unwanted there must be something wrong with it. We need to remember that lots of animals end up in adoption centres because of a human failing, not a failing of the animal. Divorce, death, money problems and many other unforeseen things can force people to relinquish animals and sadly there are millions of animals round the world looking for homes that could make wonderful pets for a lucky owner. Rehoming puppies and kittens is good for you and the pet, as is rehoming or adopting adult animals too.
The Benefits of Adoption for You and Your Family.
There are lots of studies that show that having pets is good for us. They lower blood pressure and help us deal with stress better. For many of us, coming home to the unwavering welcome of a dog or cat is one of the highlights of our day. You’re never alone when you have a pet in the house. Lots of us talk to our animals as if they were a human friend. It makes us feel good and we can unload our worries. Animals don’t judge us like some human friends do!
There are also the obvious health benefits of exercise, especially if you adopt a dog. Years ago I was judging the Hill’s Pet Slimmer of the Year Competition. I always loved doing this as we heard some fabulous stories but one winner always stuck in my mind. There was a whole family that were overweight and had thought nothing of it until their vet told them that their dog was also fat. They were mortified and the whole family went on a get fit mission to help the dog lose weight. Everyone, kids included, got fitter, happier and healthier. What a great story.
I believe there is also the mental benefit of the feel-good factor. Rehoming an animal is a fundamentally good thing to do and the benefits of that should not be underestimated for you and the pet.
Things to Consider First.
As with taking on any animal it’s really important that you are sure you can provide for its needs. Cats are much more independent than dogs so may suit your lifestyle better if you are working long hours. Make sure you do your research about time, energy and money commitments. Animals cost way more than most people think over their lifetime. Be honest with yourself and make a responsible choice. Good adoption centres will help you make these decisions so choose your centre wisely too.
It’s also really important to look into socialisation and habituation for dogs and cats. This is the process of how they learn to cope with life with humans and other animals, people and everyday things they might encounter. Once again, good adoption centres should already know what stage your dog or cat is at and can help you with these things after your pet comes home.
If you decide you don’t have the time or resources to commit long term, think about fostering. Lots of places offer this and need people to foster short term. This can be valuable and rewarding and a good way to get a taster of what having a pet will be like.
Adopt Before You Shop.
Lots of people say ‘adopt don’t shop’ but I’d like you to consider adopting before you shop too. Lots of people have a fixed idea in their head of the exact pet they want but what do you have to lose from just looking? Before you order that puppy or kitten just spend a few hours in your local adoption centre. You may find you fall in love with something you never expected. You’ve got absolutely nothing to lose and just possibly everything to gain.
Dr Emma Milne qualified as a vet in 1996. She worked in small animal practice for 12 years and as a clinical nutrition advisor for seven years. She is well known for her animal welfare work and has written ten books on pet animals.