If you’re thinking of adopting a pet or if you’ve just brought your new family member home, you’re not alone: Pet ownership in America has been increasing every year, from 51 million households in 1988 to 64 million in 2002 to 71.1 million in 2007. Maybe you’ve even pictured your new pet in your mind a thousand times—a cute, furry creature bounding to the door to greet you after a hard day’s work.
Puppy love and kitten kisses aside, adopting a pet is similar to bringing home a new baby. “You’re now responsible for another living soul,” says pet lifestyle advisor Wendy Nan Rees, author of several pet books, including The Name Game: An Eclectic Look at How and Why People Name Their Pets. “The pet needs to be fed, cared for and taken to the vet. The first 30 days creates the footprint for how you and your pet will live together,” says Rees.
Taking the Plunge: Adopting a Pet
Though some people know from the start that they want a Maine Coon Cat, an American Water Spaniel or an African Grey Parrot, many prospective pet owners have no idea which animal would suit them best. If you don’t know what you’re looking for when adopting a pet—or even if you do—consider your interests and lifestyle. A great resource to use before adopting a pet is the ASPCA’s web site, which has a brief description of the pros and cons of several kinds of pets.
Another consideration is whether to adopt an older animal from a shelter or get a young pet from a breeder or pet shop. While older animals might be less expensive, they also might have a history that affects its behavior.
When Max Kahn of Grass Valley, CA, brought home Oskar, a nervous three-year-old rescue dog with separation anxiety, she says that she read dog training books for weeks and discovered that he needed routine and lots of exercise. “All his neuroses get better with exercise,” Max says. “He’s a lot better now.”
When selecting a pet, some vets and breeders urge people not to purchase kittens and puppies from pet shops because of the conditions in which they’re bred and kept. Whatever you choose, make sure you use a reputable person or company.
Bringing Up Baby: Preparing for Your New Pet
Before adopting a pet, read up on its care and training and think about how you’ll incorporate him into your life. Create a comfortable space for your new friend and decide how different family members will help care for him.
When Tedra Osell of Ventura, CA, finally decided to have Santa bring her three-year-old son the mice he had been begging for, she prepared carefully and made educating her son part of the fun. “Santa also gave him a book about mice,” Tedra notes. “He was really proud of his responsibility.”
Before actually adopting your pet, you’ll need to go shopping for some basics: a carrier to bring home your new pet; a cage, crate or place for your pet to sleep; food and dishes; a collar and leash for a dog; and a few toys. But don’t buy too many extras before you meet your pet.