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How To Make the Right Match With Shelter Pets

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Adopting a cat or dog can be a significant life decision, but it is sure to bring plenty of joy. Though out of the goodness of your heart, you may want to give every pet in the shelter a new home, the reality is that not every one will be the perfect fit for every family.

Matching pets to owners is a crucial process that goes beyond finding a pet their loving home. The staff at the shelter take the personality of the pet and the lifestyle of the adopter into account when trying to find their ideal family.

Animal Shelter Adoption

Deciding to adopt from a shelter is beyond exciting. However, before you bring home a new pet, there are a few items you should first consider.

  • Time commitment

    Pets require plenty of love, attention, and playtime. Plus, some breeds may need to be brushed nearly every day. With cats, you will also need to set aside time to clean out their litter box. Although some cats may be OK with being left alone for hours, others may want your company and attention nearly all the time.

    The time commitment for dogs is similar to, if not a bit higher, than cats. Every day you need to set aside time to feed your dog, take them outside, and play with them. They may also need to be brushed multiple times a week, and don’t forget about your daily walks. With kittens and puppies, your daily time commitment will likely be much higher as you work on training and keeping them safe.

    Aside from day-to-day, over the years, pets are also a long-term commitment. Depending on the age you adopt your pet, you may be taking care of them for a decade or more. Their age and breed could affect how much care they require, so it is something to consider when choosing a pet.

  • Cost of having a pet

    There are many expenses (unpredictable and expected) that come along with adopting a pet. Aside from your initial adoption costs, you will need to buy necessary supplies, like brushes, beds, food, dishes, toys, litter, leashes, and treats, to name a few. You will also need to factor in the cost of veterinary appointments, vaccines, a spay/neuter procedure, and monthly parasite prevention medications.

    Although not a necessity, you may also want to consider some fun or optional pet products like a climbing tower, hammock, or self-cleaning litter box for your cat. You may want to get your dog hiking gear, a car-safety harness, or cute bandanas.

    The financial aspect of being a pet parent is something to consider before ever stepping inside an animal shelter. That said, unexpected veterinary bills can pop up for any cat or dog, so attempting to predict whether a particular dog or cat will cost more in the long run is nearly impossible.

  • Current living situation

    Before welcoming a new four-legged family member to your home, consider your current living situation. If you’re in an apartment or other type of rental, you will want to check breed and size restrictions, rules regarding multiple pets, and any possible pet security deposits or pet rent.

    If you are currently living in a house or property you own, it’s courteous to speak with anyone living in the home, ensuring they are OK with a new pet. Depending on their age, children or teens may be able to help care for their new four-legged sibling, and you can discuss everyone’s roles and responsibilities ahead of the pet coming home.

    If you already have some pets at your house, it’s crucial to consider if they will be OK with adding a new canine or feline sibling. You know your pet best, and even if you want another pet, if your current best pup or cat does not get along well with other animals, it would be best not to force another one into their space. However, in the instance that your canine or feline companion would highly appreciate a new pet sibling, be sure to take your time with proper introductions between the two animals.

You may have already considered these factors and know that now is still the right time to adopt a new pet, in which case, you can visit your local animal shelter or rescue.

Choosing the right pet for your family can be a bit overwhelming—you are making a big decision. While there, don’t hesitate to talk with the staff as you look around since they can provide valuable guidance.

child cuddling a cat

Pet Adoption Matching

As you walk through an animal shelter and meet the wonderful cats and dogs up for adoption, there can be much to consider. After all, you want to select a pet that will be the right fit for you and you for them.

If you’re wondering how to choose a pet that matches your lifestyle and how to know if they do when only having met them for a short amount of time, you can turn to the resources that many shelters have in place. It’s recommended to lean on the staff at the shelter to provide valuable information as you make this decision and go through the matchmaking process, as they often know the animals best or can share insights gathered from any time the animal spent with a foster caregiver as they prepared for adoption.

What Does a Pet Adoption Counselor Do?

Being a pet adoption counselor can be a rewarding job, but also a role that requires you to wear many hats. In this position, some daily duties may include training volunteers, filing paperwork, taking care of animals, and processing applications and fees. However, in this role, your primary responsibility is to help match pets with possible adopters.

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In order to help match pets who are available for adoption with their new families, pet adoption counselors pay close attention to animal behaviors and body language. When an animal is first brought into a shelter, it’s not unusual for there to be limited information about the pet’s history and personality. Not to mention, many animals become nervous or anxious when brought to a shelter, so their genuine personality may be a bit hidden at first.

By spending some one-on-one time with the animals, pet adoption counselors can better understand behavior issues and items that need improvement. These can include anything from not being house-trained to being anxious around other animals. By getting a better understanding of how an animal may be feeling, pet adoption counselors, along with other shelter staff, can then begin working to correct the behaviors while the cat or dog waits to be adopted.

When the time comes that someone is interested in adopting one of the animals, pet adoption counselors can help inform pet parents how to provide proper care for their potential adoptees. Along with explaining how to handle any issues the cat or dog may still be working on, the counselors will also learn more about the applicants, including their lifestyle and what kind of pet they want.

Although working with animals is a significant part of being a pet adoption counselor, interacting with people is just as valuable. Exceptional communication, people skills, superb listening abilities, and empathy are all assets that help make up a wonderful counselor. These professionals are there to help you make the best decision you can for your family and new pet.

Other Items To Consider Before Adopting a Pet

In addition to using the adoption resources your local shelter may already have, don’t forget to do your own evaluations. Before you even visit a shelter, ask yourself some essential questions about being a pet parent and consider what you are looking for in a pet.

Questions to ask yourself include,

  • Am I financially ready to be responsible for a pet?
  • Do I have the time to commit to a cat or dog?
  • Is my current living situation conducive to adding a pet?
  • Do I know how to pet-proof my home and provide proper training?
  • What do I want from my new relationship with my pet?

After these considerations, you can also ponder the age, size, and gender you prefer. Perhaps you’ve already done a large amount of research and have an idea of what perfect pet would fit your lifestyle best, though it can also be helpful to keep an open mind in case you end up going home with a pet that you hadn’t initially considered. It is helpful to remain honest with yourself and transparent with shelter staff.

If you are an avid hiker who spends most of their time outdoors, then the dog you adopt may be quite different from a person who is more of a homebody and prefers to have relaxing evenings and weekends. The same is true for cats. Some people may be looking for a cat that provides company but doesn’t mind entertaining themselves, while others may prefer a cat that’s always wanting to sit on your lap, be held, or cuddle up next to you.

Ahead of going to the animal shelter in person, you should check out their social media pages or website. Many locations keep their online presence updated with which pets they currently have up for adoption. You never know—you may find a pet you love just by looking online. Whenever you meet the dogs and cats in person, take your time interacting with them and see how you get along. Some animal shelters have rooms where you can spend one-on-one time with a potential new best friend, or they will allow you to bring in your current pet so that they may meet their possible new sibling.

Don’t forget, when adopting a pet, it’s helpful to keep an open mind. You never know which pet will be the right match for you and your family.

An ASPCA Pet Health Insurance plan can help you with eligible costs for covered conditions like surgery expenses for accidents and help provide peace of mind that your pet can receive the care they need. Check out our online resources to learn more about your insurance options and get a free quote today. The information presented in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute or substitute for the advice of your veterinarian.


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