Once you have carefully considered all aspects of raising a companion animal, such as cost – both in terms of time and money – and you are still sure that you want, and can provide for a pet, then you are ready to consider specific qualities and characteristics of the animal. Some things to consider when adopting a dog or cat include size, temperament, sex, age and coat type.
Don’t overlook older animals as they often make the best pets. As well, don’t overlook animals who appear quiet, scared or excited. Many animals in shelters and pounds are frightened and a little overwhelmed, and may exhibit some minor behavioural problems due to their stressed state.
Why adoption works
When adopting a pet, it is a good idea to find out as much about the animal’s history as possible. Ask the employees, volunteers or fosterers how the animal behaved while in their care. Do they know if the animal is good with children and other pets?
It’s also a good idea to have the entire family meet their prospective pet away from the stressful environment of the other animals. Many shelters have designated areas where this interaction can take place. People who already have pets might make arrangements with shelter employees to have their pets meet a prospective sibling in a controlled, neutral setting to see how they get along.
While getting to know pets before adopting them is important, so too is learning how to effectively raise a companion animal. Do your research thoroughly and know what to expect before getting a pet at all.
Giving an older dog a home
Training a puppy means starting at ground zero; an older dog will most likely be housebroken and may have had previous training. At the very least, an older dog will not have to be fed or taken outside as often as a younger one, and can be left alone for longer periods of time. The older the dog, the more independent they can be.
Older dogs often make great companions for older people, who don’t have the stamina to keep up with a young, energetic dog. Older pets are more likely to be calm, and less susceptible to unpredictable behaviour. They are often more easily physically managed by elderly persons than stronger, excitable younger animals; yet older pets still confer the same emotional benefits on their owners as younger animals do.
With an older dog you know what you’re getting in terms of size, physical appearance, health and temperament. There is no way to know whether the tiny puppy you adopt today will be 30 kilograms of hard-to-manage dog a year from now, or if she will shed constantly or fall victim to a genetic disease.
An older dog has already gone through the destructive phases of adolescence and puppyhood, and will most likely be more focused and self-disciplined. You CAN teach an old dog new tricks. In fact, older dogs have a longer attention span, and often give more recognition to their trainers than puppies and young dogs do.
Adopting an Older Cat
Adopting an adult cat has many advantages. Remember an older cat has already developed its personality, so you will know what kind of pet they will be and whether or not they will suit your family. Many people go for the cute little kitten; only to find out that they grow into a very shy and quiet cat that likes to spend all its time away from the family.
Kittens need much more attention and supervision than adults. If you work long hours away from home or is otherwise frequently away, you’ll find that an adult cat will adapt to their home much more comfortably than a kitten.
The same is true for a home that already has other animals. While a resident dog can be a hazard for a small kitten, an adult cat will soon set boundaries with the dog and decide what will be tolerated. This seems to be also true of homes with a resident feline. A kitten can be too playful and annoying for an older cat, whereas another adult, introduced slowly and patiently, will work out with the first cat a pecking order that suits both parties.
Households with very young children are another poor choice for a kitten. Young children can sometimes be very rough with a kitten. Adult cats seem to be able to tolerate a certain amount of handling from kids yet are still able to leave when enough is enough.
Finally, cats can live well into their late teens and even early twenties with all the advances in food nutrition and medical treatments. So that 10 year old cat waiting in the animal shelter for a good home is still a good bet, and will still be able to provide you with many years of fun and companionship.