By Sharon Reily, Reference Department
“Who rescued who?” This touching (although grammatically incorrect) sticker seems to be attached to every other car bumper in Williamson County. As the sticker makes clear, giving a home to a needy animal does not only benefit the animal. But a successful pet adoption that works for both the animal and the adopting family is a serious undertaking that deserves careful consideration and lots of planning and preparation. It’s an obligation that can last more than a decade. Not everyone is up to the task. If you’re in the market for a new pet, the list of adoptable critters is endless – you can adopt homeless turtles, cockatoos, rabbits, horses, even spiders! Since we’re in the middle of “puppy and kitty season,” when shelters are swamped with unwanted litters, let’s concentrate on the ins and outs of dog and cat adoption.
The Humane Society of the United States has compiled a list of the top reasons to adopt a pet:
- Save a life. Each year 2.7 million adoptable dogs and cats are euthanized in the U.S. This number could be reduced if more people adopted pets instead of buying them.
- Get a great animal. Shelters are full of wonderful, healthy animals, many of whom ended up there through no fault of their own.
- It costs less. A purebred dog or cat purchased from a breeder can cost hundreds, even thousands, of dollars. The MUCH lower adoption fees often include the cost of spaying/neutering, first vaccinations, even microchipping.
- You can fight puppy mills. If you buy a dog from a pet store, online seller or flea market, there’s a good chance it will come from a puppy mill. Puppy mills are breeding factories that put profit over animal welfare, and the animals often live in deplorable conditions. Puppies from the mills are often ill and have behavioral issues. By adopting a pet, you won’t be giving the puppy mills a dime.
- Your house will thank you. Lots of rescue animals are already housetrained. Give your rugs a break!
- Pets are good for you! Not only do animals give you unconditional love, but they have been shown to be psychologically, emotionally and physically beneficial to their companions. Caring for a pet can provide a sense of purpose and lessen feelings of loneliness.
- Adopting helps more than one animal. Many shelters are overcrowded, and when you adopt one animal, you make room for others. Adoption fees allow shelters to offer better care for their animals.
- You’ll change a homeless animal’s whole world and get a new best friend out of the deal!
Included in the “Resources” section at the end of this article is a list of books about people whose lives have been improved by adopting an animal. Have a box of Kleenex handy when you read them.
BEFORE YOU ADOPT:
Think hard and ask yourself a lot of questions before you make the decision to adopt a pet.
- Why do you want a pet? As a travel companion? To cuddle with on the couch, go for strenuous runs and hikes, or something in between? Analyzing your reasons for adopting can help you determine what sort of pet to look for.
- What kind of dog or cat do you want? High energy or mellow? Large or small? Long hair or short hair? Affectionate or more independent? Male or female? Puppy or senior? Once you’ve decided what type of dog or cat works best for you and your family, stick with the decision. Don’t fall for the first adorable puppy or kitten you meet.
- Take your family’s feelings into consideration and make sure everyone is one board with bringing home a new pet.
- Can you afford a pet? The cost of food, regular vaccinations, spaying or neutering, toys and other supplies adds up. A serious injury or illness can break the bank.
- Do you have time to devote to a pet? Dogs, exotic birds, and cats need lots of daily interaction, but even “pocket pets” like mice and hamsters need supervised time outside their cages. If you work really long hours or travel a lot for work, adopting a pet might not be your best option.
- Do you have enough physical stamina to take care of a pet? Cats like a lot of play time and dogs have to be walked. Some high energy dogs need more than an hour of exercise a day.
- Are you honestly ready for the responsibility? Cesar Millan, the “Dog Whisperer,” offers this clue: Look at your closet. Is it neat and organized? That may sound odd, but Millan says the state of the closet has always been a true test of a person’s ability to provide a pet with a structured life that has rules, boundaries and limitations. Yikes – good thing nobody checked my closets before I got my dog!
- Are you prepared to handle some of the physical and emotional “baggage” that rescue pets can bring with them?
NEW PET PREP
So you’ve decided to adopt and you’ve found the right pet. There’s still a lot to do. The following should all be in place BEFORE you bring home your new pet.
- Create a plan with your family to divide up the responsibility of caring for your new pet. Who is expected to do what and when?
- Decide where your dog will stay during the day and where it will sleep at night.
- Pet proof your house. Put cleaning products, poisonous plants and any foods toxic to cats or dogs out of reach. Tape electrical cords to baseboards. Put away any small items that could be choking hazards. You might want to roll up and put away expensive rugs until you determine your new pet’s level of housetraining.
- Buy basic supplies. For a dog: high quality dog food, a crate of the appropriate size with a crate mat, food and water dishes, sturdy chew toys, a cozy bed, a collar with an ID tag including your cell number and address, a leash, dog shampoo, brush, and nail clippers. For a cat: High quality cat food, food and water dishes, litter box or boxes and cat litter, toys, a scratching post, cat shampoo, brush and nail clippers. Try to purchase the same kind of food the animal has been eating, and if you want to try a different brand, introduce it slowly by adding increasing amounts of the new food to the old food.
- Have an appointment already scheduled with a veterinarian so you can have your new pet checked out as soon as you collect it.
BRINGING YOUR NEW PET HOME
First of all, be patient! Moving to a different home will be stressful for your new pet. It might take anywhere from six to twelve weeks for it to become fully adjusted to its environment. Here are some tips to make your new pet’s transition run smoothly:
- Introduce family members and other pets in a controlled way. Try to do this in a calm, quiet manner.
- NEVER leave a new dog unsupervised around children.
- If you’ve adopted a dog, seriously consider using a crate, which will aid in house training and prevent destructive behavior. Feeding your dog in its crate and making sure the crate contains toys and a comfy mat may make it more appealing. WCPL has some good books that include tips on crate training.
- Spend as much time with your new pet as possible.
- A little exercise may make your new dog feel better. Check with your vet for your dog’s appropriate level of exercise and don’t overdo it.
- Keep things quiet and calm for the first few days. Don’t let your new pet get too excited.
- Realize that even if your new pet is already house trained, it may have a few accidents until it settles in.
REAP THE REWARDS
If you do your homework and follow through on the prep, planning, and day-to-day care of your new pet (with lots of love and patience tossed in), you will have an amazing addition to your family. I’m not ashamed to say that when I was a kid my two best friends were a dog and a cat. I can’t begin to describe all the ways these beautiful little creatures enriched my life. There are thousands of wonderful dogs and cats just like them out there who need great homes. Go rescue them!
The following sites offer general information about pet adoption.
- American Cat Fanciers Association
- American Kennel Club
- American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
- Humane Society of the United States
Local Adoption Agencies and Organizations:
- Agape Animal Rescue
- Clover Patch Sanctuary (rabbits, birds and small animals)
- Critter Cavalry Rescue
- Happy Tales Humane
- Heaven Can Wait Animal Rescue and Sanctuary
- Snooty Giggles
- Williamson County Animal Center
If you are interested in a specific breed of dog or cat, many shelters often have purebred animals available. In addition, almost every breed has its own rescue organization. Just Google the name of the breed and “rescue” (for example, “basset hound rescue”).
RESOURCES AVAILABLE AT WCPL:
Books about every aspect of choosing, adopting, training and caring for a cat or dog are found in the nonfiction section with call numbers 636.7 through 636.8. Feel free to browse or ask a librarian to help you find just the right book. Here are a few basic pet care titles:
- Bailey, Gwen. Adopt The Perfect Dog. Pleasantville, NY: Readers Digest Association, 2000. (636.70887 BAI)
- Bradshaw, John, and Sarah Ellis. The Trainable Cat: A Practical Guide To Making Life Happier For You And Your Cat. New York: Basic , 2016. (636.8083 BRA)
- McGinnis, Terri. The Well Cat Book: The Classic Comprehensive Handbook Of Cat Care. New York: Random House, 1993. (636.808 MACG)
- Ross, John, and Barbara McKinney. Adoptable Dog: Teaching Your Adopted Pet To Obey, Trust, And Love You. New York: Norton, 2003. (636.7 ROS)
- Shojai, Amy. Complete Kitten Care. New York: New American Library, 2002. (636.807 SHO)
TRUE STORIES ABOUT ADOPTED DOGS AND CATS (grab a hankie!):
- Anderson, Allen, and Linda Anderson. Angel Cats: Divine Messengers Of Comfort. Novato, CA: New World Library, 2004. (636.8 AND)
- Bowen, James. A Street Cat Named Bob: And How He Saved My Life. New York: Thomas Dunne , St. Martins Press, 2013. (305.5692 BOW)
- Cooper, Gwen. Homer’s Odyssey: A Fearless Feline Tale, Or How I Learned About Love And Life With A Blind Wonder Cat. New York: Delacorte Press, 2010. (636.80929 COO)
- Erspamer, Lisa. A Letter To My Cat. New York: Crown Archetype, 2014. (636.8 LET)
- Herriot, James. James Herriot’s Cat Stories. New York: St. Martins Press, 1995. (636.8 HER)
- Katz, Jon. The Second-Chance Dog: A Love Story. New York: Ballantine , 2013. (636.700974749 KAT)
- Klam, Julie. Love At First Bark: How Saving A Dog Can Sometimes Help You Save Yourself. New York: Penguin, 2011. (615.85158 KLA)
- Lufkin, Elise. Found Dogs. New York: Howell Book House, 1997. (636.70832 LUF)
- Lufkin, Elise, and Diana Walker. Second Chances: More Tales Of Found Dogs. Guilford, CT: Lyons Press, 2005. (636.70887 LUF)
- Magrs, Paul. The Story Of Fester Cat: How One Remarkable Cat Changed Two Men’s Lives. New York: Berkley , 2014. (636.8 MAG)
- Myron, Vicki, and Bret Witter. Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched The World. New York: Grand Central Pub., 2009. (636.80929 MYR)
Lufkin, Elise, and Diana Walker. Second chances: more tales of found dogs. Guilford, CT: Lyons Press, 2005.