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His pudgy nose, tiny paws and sloppy, wet kisses melted your
heart in an instant. But after giving in to desire and surprising
the family with a new furry friend, you found that caring for a new
puppy was not exactly what you expected. Adopting a pet can be
rewarding, but certain steps must be made before both you and your
pet can be ready for the transition.
"It's important to avoid impulse adopting," emphasizes Dr.
Snowden, an associate professor at the Texas A&M College of
Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. "Pets are a
life-long commitment. Dogs and cats can live ten to fifteen years,
while parrots and turtles will live much longer."
So, how do you know if you are ready to adopt a pet? Snowden
believes the first step of the process is to evaluate your needs
"Before adopting a pet, a potential owner needs to consider the
amount of space in the home available to accommodate the pet," says
Snowden. "Evaluating the amount of time and care that can be spent
with the animal, as well as the activity level of both owner and
pet, is important, too. Fish are not as demanding as a dog that
needs jogging everyday and therefore may be a more suitable choice
for a relatively inactive or time-pressed individual."
Once you have decided which type of pet to adopt, it is time to
choose where to search for your affectionate friend.
"Some great places to find a dog or cat are the local shelters,
or breeders," notes Snowden. "There are fewer sources for reptiles
and birds, however many can be found at local breeders or rescue
groups, as well as at local pet stores."
But just finding the number for the local shelter in the yellow
pages is not enough. When searching for a new pet, you must
research and ask questions.
"When looking for a new dog or cat, it's important to find out
how much socialization the animal has been exposed to. The more
social interaction the animal has had, the more likely it will be
happy and exhibit good behavior," adds Snowden. "If you decide to
purchase a pet from a pet store, it's a good idea to find out where
the animal came from and ask questions, such as 'Do the stores
breed and raise the animals themselves?' or 'Are the pets coming
from a variety of sources?' Asking questions can give you an idea
of how much socialization the animal has experienced."
If after asking the appropriate questions you decide to adopt
from a local shelter, there are several services that you can
expect to be provided.
"Texas state law requires all animals in shelters to be
vaccinated for rabies and be either spayed or neutered," states
Snowden. "Most shelter animals have been de-wormed and given a flea
treatment or prevention medication. In addition to these services,
most shelters and veterinarians offer microchipping at a reasonable
cost, an invaluable resource in the event that your adopted pet
goes missing. Overall, shelters hope to provide owners with
healthy, social pets with little initial expense."
Even though some may choose to adopt from a shelter, many often
refuse. Common misconceptions about shelters can unfortunately
prevent affectionate pets from finding new homes.
"There is a widespread assumption that shelter animals are
unhealthy muts," explains Snowden. "This mistaken belief is not
representative of many shelter populations. In fact, about one-
fourth to one-third of dogs in shelters across the country are an
easily identifiable breed."
Once you have chosen what type of pet suits you best and where
to find your loving companion, the next step is to prepare your
home for your new pet.
"Dogs need adequate food, water, appropriate dishes, a collar
and leash, a plan for where he or she will spend most of their time
and bedding or a crate for the animal to adopt as his or her 'safe'
or 'resting' place," notes Snowden. "Cats require similar items and
you will need to decide whether or not the animal will be staying
primarily indoors or outdoors. If you decide to keep the cat
indoors, find a place for the litter box with daily sanitation in
After preparing your home for your new arrival, it is finally
time to bring home your new friend. However, challenges often arise
as your pet strives to figure out his strange new home.
"When you bring home your pet, it is necessary to begin a
routine," urges Snowden. "Establish when he or she will have time
for play and exercise. Implement a regular feeding schedule that
coincides with your daily agenda. With a consistent routine in
place, your pet will rapidly adapt to his or her new
Adopting a pet can be a rewarding experience. With proper
research and appropriate care, you and your new friend could
develop a happy, life-long relationship.
Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine
& Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University.
Stories can be viewed on the Web at http://tamunews.tamu.edu/.
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Angela G. Clendenin
Director, Communications & Public Relations
Ofc - (979) 862-2675
Cell - (979) 739-5718
Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas 77843
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