I’ve been an animal lover my whole life, but it wasn’t until I was in middle school that my parents finally gave in to my relentless begging for a dog. I suppose they got sick of me taking the neighbor’s dog and hiding him in my room. I’ll never forget the day my dad took me to our local animal shelter and let me window shop for my very own pooch. Mindy was a 7-year-old black Lab whose family hadn’t been able to take her with them when they moved. After reading on her info card that her time was almost up, I knew the instant our eyes met she was destined to be mine. Mindy and I were inseparable! I loved taking her for walks and sleeping with her in my bed. She was everything I ever wanted in a dog, and I felt lucky to have found her. Years later when I was looking for a cat, I went back to that same shelter and found Anya, the kitten I hid from my landlord in college, who was with me when I got married and through the birth of all my children.
Some people choose to purchase their pets from breeders and like to train them from a very young age. They know the work and costs associated with raising a new puppy or kitten and are ready for the challenge. Other people just want a good, old fashioned pet for their family that doesn’t need much more than a bowl of food twice a day and a trip to the vet once in a while. It’s almost like buying a new car vs. buying a used one. Some people want the shiny paint and bells and whistles. Other people just need to get from Point A to Point B. Pet adoption seems to fit somewhere in the middle…If I can save a bit of money by getting a “used” pet instead of a new one and it will still meet my needs, fantastic!
Let’s go through some of the pros and cons associated with adopting vs. buying a pet…
Pro: Shelter pets are less expensive than buying a purebred animal.
Shelters require spaying/neutering for all adopted animals. These surgeries are performed at DEEP discounts to make the animals more affordable and adoptable. Vaccinations and many medical tests are usually included in your adoption fee. (This can vary between organizations, but a rabies vaccine is always given.) Purebred animals can easily cost more than $1000, whereas shelter fees are usually less than $100!
Pro: You can choose to adopt an adult dog/cat and completely miss the puppy/kitten phase!
While some people love the cuteness of baby animals, they definitely require much more work and attention than adults. If you love sleeping through the night and don’t want to ruin that new fluffy carpet you just got in the living room, a “used” pet may be right for you! A friend of mine just had to replace an entire door and all the molding around it because her new puppy got bored and missed her when she went to the store! I’d rather spend my hard-earned money on tacos! Shelter pets are often housebroken and past the destructive phase. You’ll still need to do some training, but hopefully the hard part is over!
Pro: You get what you see.
(*Unlike dating websites, where you get a 20-year-old picture of a buff shirtless
man, but when you meet him he’s overweight and balding!)
It can be very difficult to tell the personality of a puppy or kitten, simply because they’re still growing and haven’t fully developed their little personalities. If you want a gregarious cat, you can pick one that’s rubbing at the front of the cage and sticking his paw out to try and get your attention. Chances are he will be the same way at home once he gets used to his surroundings. Adult dogs will be fully grown so you know exactly how big they’ll get and if they will fit in the passenger seat of your Prius (because Fido probably won’t accept being relegated to the back seat)!
Pro: Mixed breed dogs and cats tend to be healthier.
There certainly are purebred dogs and cats to be found in animal shelters, but usually you’ll find those amazing “Heinz 57” mutts whose breed remains a mystery. Because they aren’t inbred puppy mill dogs/cats, they’re less likely to have hereditary diseases and other issues that may plague them later in life. You know those adorable Shar Pei dogs (my son calls them ‘raisin dogs’) with all the wrinkles? They are to die for adorable as puppies, but those wrinkles certainly have a dark side. They trap moisture and cause horrible yeast and bacterial skin infections that smell terrible and can cost an arm and a leg to treat. Plus, they can never truly be totally cured so it’s a constant expense throughout the life of the dog. Talk about buyer’s remorse! While any pet can have unknown health conditions, often a mixed breed dog or cat can be the best option to decrease your risk.
Pro: You are saving a life!
Many shelters are forced to euthanize due to space constraints. It’s a tragic truth that there just aren’t enough homes for all those pets. So instead of adding to that number, consider a “used” one. The satisfaction that comes from saving the life of an animal that ends up providing your family with lots of love is worth a lot!
Con: You don’t know what baggage they come with.
Unless the dog or cat was a stray, there’s a reason that beloved pet ended up in the shelter. Sometimes it’s as simple as a family allergy or a new apartment not allowing pets, but sometimes it’s because a cat peed in the house or a dog was aggressive toward visitors. Some of these things you may see when you visit, but others may surprise you in the days and weeks ahead. See if the shelter has done a behavior exam on the animal and if they can tell you anything about it’s past.
If you are still debating, consider the happy medium – adopting a pet through a rescue group. These organizations are no-kill and often have foster families that keep the animals until they’ve been adopted. It’s often more expensive to go through a rescue group, but those foster families can tell you much more about the dog or cat you’re considering because they’ve had them in their homes. I think the very best way to get a new furry friend is to sign up to be a foster caregiver for an organization and “test drive” several pets to see which one is the best fit. You’ll be able to see their true colors in your home environment and won’t feel guilty if they aren’t the right fit, because they aren’t technically yours!
Above all, realize that adopting a pet is a huge commitment and you need to be there for them from beginning to end. You need to love them even when they steal the expensive steaks off the counter you left there to marinate for dinner. You need to love them when they lay on your head at 2 am and start purring like a freight train. You need to love them even when they barf on the favorite sweater you left lying on the floor. (Not all of these are personal examples… I promise!)
Once you take them home, pets truly become a family member and deserve to be treated like one. Would you trade in your grandma for a newer model when she can’t keep up with you anymore? How about leaving one of your kids behind when you decide to move because they just don’t get along with their sister? A pet’s novelty should never wear off and they depend on you to keep them healthy, safe and happy. I truly believe everyone deserves a 4-legged family member by their side! Those fluffy creatures are beneficial for adults and kids alike. Research has shown that people with pets are less stressed than those without pets. And there’s nothing like coming home after a long day at work (or school) to a wet sloppy kiss or a warm purring ball of fluff in your lap. You’ll honestly be doing yourself (and a deserving animal) a favor by adopting a pet!
Have you adopted from a shelter or rescue before? What was your success story?