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What to look for when adopting a pet

We’ve all been there. You’re cruising the local shelter to help a friend pick out the perfect pet. Then, you see an adorable puppy giving you those irresistible take-me-home eyes, and you just have to have him.

Sad dog in shelter

Adopting a pet means much more than falling in love with a cute puppy or kitten. You’re signing up for a long-term commitment. Before you take a life-changing leap into pet parenthood, make sure you know exactly what to look for when adopting a pet.


What behaviors would you like your pet to exhibit around others? Think about any friends or family members who have pets. Are there any that you dread being around and why? Some behaviors can be taught while others are simply part of the pet’s natural instincts. Jot down a list of behavior ideals and bring them with you to the shelter. If you find a pet that interests you, be sure to discuss your list with the person in charge to make sure you and your pet are a perfect match.

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Are you a social butterfly? A fitness guru? A bookworm? Think about your lifestyle and the people in it when looking for a pet. A shy and skittish pet wouldn’t quite fit in a house full of people. A cat might not make the best running partner and a high-energy dog would rather spend the day outdoors than curled up with a good book. Pay close attention to the actions and traits exhibited by your potential pet. Bookworms might look for a cuddly and lovable pet, athletic-minded owners might try seeing how the pet responds to a game of fetch. Socialites should bring a small entourage to see how the pet reacts in a social setting.

Care requirements

What your pet needs to live a healthy and fruitful life should include a mix of what you can handle and what you’re willing to handle. All things considered, older pets and certain breeds require owners with a healthy wallet to pay for proper care and vet bills to sustain a proper quality of life. If you suffer from allergies, do your research to find “hypoallergenic” breeds like Yorkies that have human-like hair instead of fur and promote less dander-derived allergens. Ask yourself how much time you have in the day to devote to grooming and exercise. Breeds like pugs and chihuahuas tend to find happiness with long naps and brief walks while high-energy working breeds like labs and golden retrievers must exert energy regularly.


Perhaps the most important thing to look for — “the feeling.” A feeling that no one can explain or know other than you and your new pet. That feeling when your gut tells you, “This is the pet for me.” If you feel an instant connection, beyond cuteness or any other superficial attributes, everything else goes out the window. Spend special one-on-one time with every pet you might be interested in. When the right one comes along, you’ll just know.

More on pet adoption

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