Before you Adopt a Furry Friend…Questions to Ask Yourself

Cheryl Phillips

Animals Have Feelings Too…Pets are Part of Your Family, They are Not Disposable…

Are you prepared to love and care for your pet for a lifetime commitment? When you adopt, you are making a long-term commitment to love and care for an animal. Sharing your home with a four-legged friend can be one of life's greatest joys. Dogs, cats, and other pets provide unconditional love, loyalty, and acceptance, provide constant companionship, and even help relieve stress after a hard day's work. But adopting a pet is a big decision. Dogs, cats, and all pets require lots of love, time, money, and commitment—more than 15 years' worth in many cases. Pet ownership can be rewarding, but only if you think through your decision before you adopt a companion.

If and when you adopt, please adopt a shelter pet.  Homeless pets in your community are counting on people like you to give them a chance. There are many pure breed pets in shelters and many pure breed rescue organizations.   Here are some things to think about before you commit.

Before adopting a pet, it’s a good thing to make sure allergies are not an issue. Allergies seem to be a common excuse to rehome a pet, real or not…please do not use the term GET RID of pets, they are not disposable.    


  1. Why do you want a pet? Puppies and kittens are adorable, but they require lots of care, training, and LOVE. Pets are not toys to amuse children. We know that children should be taught to respect all living creatures, and it’s important to make sure the home is a happy, healthy environment for everyone involved. Do you have time, and can you afford the costs and keep up with training, exercise, play-time, cleaning, veterinary appointments, and daily care; walking, fresh food and water? These are all important for a healthy, happy pet.

    Before making too quick of a decision, that could make a lasting impact on you and your pet, I encourage you to address your concerns and consider some of your options. Remember, your pet depends on you for their care, please be a responsible pet owner.   I’ve seen cases where a new boyfriend does not want a pet…and a pet that loves and depends on you is given away to the next person, who does not care for the pet. And who suffers? The pet.  Or, all of a sudden, someone develops an allergy…  The most important thing is that your pet is loved and cared for…if you can’t commit, don’t get a pet.  

  2. Is it a good time for you to adopt a pet? If you're a student, in the military, or frequently travel as part of your work, for example, waiting until you settle down is wise. If you have very young children, wait until they are older and understand the responsibility of pet ownership.

  3. Can you have a pet where you live? What if you move? Many landlords don't allow pets, or charge extra per month, and most rental communities have restrictions. Also, certain types of dogs (e.g., Staffordshire terriers, Rottweilers, Doberman pinschers and other breeds) are often excluded from homeowner insurance policies, or the owners aren’t allowed to renew or continue their coverage. Make sure you know if and how you are limited by housing-related policies before you bring a companion animal home.

  4. Can you afford a pet? The costs of pet ownership can be quite high. Licenses, training classes, spaying/neutering, veterinary care, grooming, toys, food, kitty litter, and other expenses add up quickly.  Be sure you understand the costs of food, vet care, training, grooming, and boarding. Initial one-time costs for cats and dogs range to $500, and annual costs up to $700 plus. If affording the cost of a pet is becoming overwhelming, don’t panic. If you need emergency temporary assistance for care and food, check out Financial Aid for Pets to find assistance in your state.  Your pet needs annual care which includes shots and a wellness check.  Know an emergency visit can run more than $500…can you afford it?  What if your pet needs emergency surgery…can you afford it? 

  5. Do you have time for a pet? Dogs, cats, and other animal companions should not 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.     

  6. Behavior Know that even the most challenging behavior can improve. Patience and love are essential as you do not know the history of your pet. From eating habits to aggression, the Animal Humane Society’s Pet Behavior Library has many tips on how to deal with a variety of issues. Additionally, there are trained professionals who are willing to help find a healthy solution for your pet. Merely search for obedience and dog training classes near you to see what type of training is needed. Ask your local shelter for recommendations on trainers and behavior issues. Can you afford training?

  7. Vacations - Do you know who will care for your pet while you're away on vacation? You'll need either reliable friends and neighbors or money to pay for a boarding kennel or pet-sitting service.

  8. Are you prepared to deal with the challenges that a pet can present? Scratched furniture, accidents from pets not yet house-trained, and unexpected medical emergencies are unfortunate but common aspects of pet ownership.  

  9. Are your living arrangements suitable for the animal you have in mind? Animal size is not the only variable to think about here. For example, some small dogs such as terriers are very active—they require a great deal of exercise to be calm, and they often bark at any noise. On the other hand, some big dogs are laid back and quite content to lie on a couch all day. Before adopting a pet, do your research—surf the Internet, talk to pet-owning friends and neighbors, and use shelter staff as a resource. That way, you'll be more likely to choose an animal who fits your lifestyle and living arrangements.   Leaving an animal tied up and outside day after day in all weather conditions is not acceptable pet care, they need companionship and LOVE! If it’s TOO HOT or COLD for you, it’s TOO HOT or COLD for your pet.  If you have a dog house, use straw for comfortable bedding, not blankets. The straw should be refreshed semi-annually. Blankets collect condensation and bacteria. If it is HOT out and you are walking your do and the pavement is TOO HOT FOR YOUR BAREFEET, IT IS TOO HOT FOR YOUR PET’S PAWS. 

  10. Will you be a responsible pet owner? Having your pet spayed or neutered, obeying community leash and licensing laws, and keeping identification tags on your pets are all part of being a responsible owner. Of course, giving your pet love, companionship, exercise, a healthy diet, and regular veterinary care are also essential.
  1. Are you prepared to keep and care for your pet for their life? When you adopt, you are making a long-term commitment to care for your pet. They have feelings too; they depend on you, and they grieve a loss as you do.
  1. Unfortunately, sometimes there comes a time when a pet needs to part ways with its owner. Whether it’s financial reasons or behavior, this is a difficult decision some owners encounter. It is very stressful for your pet, they’ve grown to love and depend on you. If there is an unfortunate circumstance that prevents you from keeping your pet, be prepared to take a proactive role in finding a new home for your animal companion and be sure the new owner is responsible. Visit their home. Can they afford a pet? Why do they want a pet? Rehoming is very stressful for your pet, consider what is in their best interest.

  2. If you must rehome your pet, surrender your pet to a REPUTABLE shelter. No-kill is a misnomer. Get informed and give your pet a chance at a loving, permanent home. Don’t use Craig’s List and other Social Media to find a new home as you cannot be sure who the people are and if they are responsible!  There are vile people looking for pets for bait for dog fighting and other forms of cruelty.




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