What you need to know about pet adoption

Jul 7, 2011 at 8:45 a.m. ET

If you’ve decided to add a fluffy new addition to your family, adopting a pet from a shelter is a great way to save a life and gain a new best friend. But there are a few things you should consider before adopting a pet, both about the adoption itself, and the process of adaptation once you take your new buddy home. Here’s what you need to know before taking Fido to the family nest.

Sad cat in pound

1Consider other, long-term costs

Becoming a pet owner is more than just paying that $60 adoption fee. There are other long-term costs associated with owning a pet. Everything from those first shots to vet trips cost major money, on top of regular food and toy purchases. The Animal Humane Society recommends that, before you take your new shelter animal home, you make sure you can afford to give them the life and love they deserve.


Sad dog in pound

Look beyond the puppies and kittens

Sure, their cute factor might be off the charts, but puppies and kittens will be adopted no matter what. Adult cats and dogs are far less likely to be adopted and may end up euthanized, according to the Humane Society. If you want to stock up on good karma and get an obedient, mature new friend, adopting an adolescent or adult pet is a great way to save a life.

3Make sure you're in for the long haul

Many shelter animals landed there because their owners simply became bored with them, couldn't afford to feed and care for them, were allergic to them and hundreds of other reasons. These animals are used to being abandoned, so if you adopt, make sure you're willing to make it a lifetime commitment to cut down on the pet's heartache and your own.

4Look for personality

Don't be blinded by their cuteness. If a pet seems temperamental at the shelter, odds are they won't be much better when you get home. Try playing with your potential pet at the shelter and talking to the staff. Ask about how the pet is with kids, other pets and people in general. If the pet comes to you willingly to get affection, that's a good sign. Pets with signals of bad temperaments will require some training. If the signs are there, make sure you know they won't be the well-behaved pet of your dreams right out the door.

5Allow for an adjustment period

After adopting your new pet, odds are they will be standoffish. They're not used to you or your home and do not know what to expect. Give them time and space and show nothing but affection when they peek out to see what you're doing. Eventually, they'll come around.

One shelter dog's story

Watch the story of how an ill-mannered former shelter dog, Vinny Love, transforms into a wonderful companion with talent!

More advice on adopting a pet

How to adopt a pet
6 Myths about shelter pets
Top 5 reasons to adopt a dog from an animal shelter or rescue group