By Erin Shackelford
Adopting a pet can enrich our lives in many ways. They provide companionship, increase opportunities for exercise and socialization and can improve our health.
Studies have shown that the bond between people and their pets is linked to several positive health benefits including decreased blood pressure, lessening symptoms of PTSD and curbing feelings of loneliness.
But having a pet comes with personal and financial responsibilities.
Here are some questions to consider before deciding to adopt a pet:
What kind of pet fits you best?
Whether it’s a dog, cat, rabbit, guinea pig or bird, all pets require daily care. Cleaning up after, getting exercise for and feeding your pet depends on the breed you chose. Certain breeds demand more attention and time. It’s important to also consider the expected lifespans of different kinds of pets.
Can you afford a pet?
Besides basic veterinary care, food, cleaning and care supplies, there are additional possible costs like training, walking/daycare services, grooming and unexpected veterinary bills.
Does your abode allow pets?
Some rental communities don’t allow pets, restrict certain breeds or have weight limits. It’s important to check with your rental property on their pet policies and about any pet deposits you may be required to pay.
Shed happens. And so does other stuff.
Are you prepared for the aspects of pet parenthood such as shedding, messes, barking, chewing and scratching?
Bringing your pet home
If you have determined that adopting a pet is right for you, it’s time to think about preparing your home. Here are a few tips to get your house ready:
Animals are inquisitive and like to get into things. Think about what your pet might be able to access. Remove or secure trash cans, blinds, electrical cords and food storage containers.
• Do your research on plants. Many common houseplants are toxic to pets.
• Set up a safe space just for your pet. Having a place to retreat to can make them feel comfortable and safe.
• Secure your home and yard. Ensure that all doors and windows properly latch and that the yard is free from hazards and holes.
• Stock up on supplies. Visit the Animal Welfare League website for shopping guides.
First days home
Every pet is different and will acclimate to their new home on their own time. Some pets immediately explore their space. Others may want to sleep, relax or get the lay of the land. Here are some tips for bringing your forever friend home:
• It’s important to give your new pet the space they need to feel secure in their home. Rushing the process can cause undue stress on the animal.
• Introduce the pet to new people and places slowly. Avoid situations which may overwhelm the pet.
• It can take around three months for a pet to decompress. Remember it takes pets a while to learn a routine. Try not to get frustrated. Patience is key.
• Keep pets properly identified with a fitted collar. An ID tag and an up-to-date micro-chip are also key.
Adopting from a shelter or rescue
The Animal Welfare League of Alexandria has all kinds of wonderful companion animals up for adoption including puppies, small and large dogs, cats and kittens, guinea pigs, rabbits, birds and even lizards on occasion.
All manner of pets and breeds enter shelters and rescues. Make sure to consider adopting your next animal companion. You’re sure to be rewarded with a lifetime of love and appreciation.
The writer is the marketing and communications specialist for the AWLA.