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It’s easy to discount adoption for lots of reasons - you might be convinced you want a puppy or kitten so that you can mould them to your family ways and grow with them - but please do at least hear me out on why this might not be the best thing to do.
Adoption centres all over the word are overflowing with cats and dogs, most of which are there through no fault of their own. We often see animals in ‘rescue’ centres as problem animals or damaged goods, assuming they are there because they were naughty. However, it’s often silly choices made by their previous owners or changes in family circumstances that lead to them being given up.
The fact is that the good adoption centres are excellent match makers and could save you a lot of heartache by helping you make the right choices when it comes to your next best friend.
Puppies and kittens are hard work!
This is really important to remember. Lots of us crave a puppy or kitten because they are so cute, but they don’t stay that way and young animals are a lot of work. By considering older animals you can avoid the house-training, the chewing, the nutty adolescent behaviour and lots of the night-time disruption that comes with baby animals and humans alike.
Matchmaking for the right choices.
As I said, sadly, lots of people make impulsive choices when it comes to pets. Dogs and cats are a 10-20 year commitment and this shouldn’t be entered into lightly. You might see a breed of dog you like in a film, on an ad or being shown off by a celebrity on social media but this doesn’t mean that breed will suit you and your situation.
The great thing about the good adoption centres is that they will have behaviourists or, adoption counsellors if you like, who can dig down into your family situation and help you find the dog or cat that will slot as easily as possible into that life. Are you active? What’s your financial situation like? How big is your house? Do you work? Do you have a garden? Are there children in the house and if so, how old are they? All these things are incredibly important when it comes to choosing the right pet.
Lots of us are shy about talking about finances but the PDSA paw report regularly finds that huge numbers of owners underestimate the cost of keeping an animal. In fact, depending on the breed they estimate that owning a dog can cost from £5,000 up to a huge £12,200! And these are just the minimums.
It’s important that we ask ourselves all these questions before taking on a pet, and that we answer them honestly. Millions of dogs don’t get enough exercise and many don’t ever get let off their lead. Not providing for all an animal’s needs is a common cause of frustration and behaviour problems. It’s this that often leads to the animal being given up rather than the underlying issue being addressed.
Lots of people find the normal behaviour of pets irritating. This could be cats scratching the furniture or dogs digging holes in the garden or even barking.
By talking to adoption centres and their behaviour assessors you can easily avoid many of these pitfalls. You can read about the story of a pet adoption counsellor in the US here. You can see how satisfying they find the job of helping animals and humans find the perfect match. And how frustrating it can be when someone makes the wrong choice!
Being a good friend.
We talk about animals being our best friends but it’s really important that we take our side of this friendship seriously too. The bond between humans and animals is a really precious thing and we owe it to our pets to make the right choices before they come into our lives. Whether you adopt or buy, please make sure you talk to your vet and as many knowledgeable people as possible to make sure you understand all the animal’s needs and of course whether you can meet them. It’s just as important to decide not to take on a pet as to decide which pet you want, or think you want. If we all did this the adoption centres would soon be empty!
If you’re not convinced about the benefits of adopting, why not just go and have a look round your local centre one day? You have nothing to lose and no obligations. You never know, though, you might just fall in love and find that match made in heaven.
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.
Reviewed by Dr. Hein Meyer, DVM, PhD, Dipl-ECVIM-CA