Pets 101

Pet Prep

Are you ready to adopt?

By Melissa Wiley

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Thinking of sharing your life with a furry, feathered, or scaly loved one? Taking stock of your own life is the first—and most important—step to becoming a pet parent. Animal adoption is not for the fickle of heart. It’s a long-term commitment that can see you through marriages, babies, and cross-country migrations. So don’t give self-examination short shrift. Take our quiz and see if you’re ready to take the pet plunge.

Your best friend, Sally, is coming over with her dog Beau for a visit. As soon as you open the door, Beau jumps up and pummels you with slobbery kisses. You:

A. Laugh. Doggie kisses are the bee’s knees!
B. Wipe the drool off your face and wait for Sally to take charge of the situation.
C. Recoil in horror.

Sunday mornings usually find you:

A. Cheerful, energetic, and right in sync with the early morning dog walkers.
B. Engaged in unapologetic bed hugging.
C. What mornings? Saturday night’s carousing means you don’t see daylight until 1 p.m.

When your pet-parent friends are leaving town and find themselves in need of a sitter, they:

A. Don’t even have to call. Your pad is their personal Camp Bow Wow.
B. Know they’ll hear some grumbling if they ask you, but have you on their list.
C. Can’t reach you. You know what’s coming and monitor the caller ID like a private eye.

The furniture in your home:

A. Has many marks of “character” from friends’ pets, and that’s perfectly fine with you.
B. May not exactly be magazine material, but serves its purpose with a certain flair.
C. Might as well be your pet—it’s that precious to you.

Your work schedule typically:

A. Varies so little you’re known at the local coffee shop as Ol’ Reliable.
B. Allows for some flexibility, but it’s nothing to write home about.
C. Has nothing typical about it. Dolly wasn’t singing about your life when she wrote “9 to 5.”

When you lock eyes with your checking account balance at the ATM, you:

A. Quickly lose track of all the numbers, then head for the nearest four-star restaurant.
B. Feel reassured, but still proudly consider yourself a bargain shopper.
C. Immediately start hyperventilating.

Allergies are to your family as:

A. Fur is to a hairless cat.
B. Ketchup is to eggs (works for some, not for others).
C. Wet is to a dog’s nose.

You and your partner of two years just parted ways, and your friend suggests adopting a dog to ease a broken heart. You:

A. Remind yourself that your next main squeeze could have a pet allergy and volunteer at a local shelter instead.
B. Take the long way home past the dog park to scope out like-minded potential mates.
C. Head straight to Petfinder.com and surf for cuddly cuties. A new pet is as good as a tub of ice cream.

When you look outside your window, you see:

A. A sprawling backyard, white fence and all.
B. Your neighbor’s brick wall.
C. What window? I live in a box.

The most fitting Halloween costume for you would be:

A. A washed-up nightclub singer—you do the same gig night after night.
B. An ambulance driver. Your hours are set, but when you’re on, you’re moving.
C. A cowboy. You’re only at home when roaming from town to town.

Your Answers:

Mostly As: Congratulations! You are ready to adopt. Run, don’t walk, to your nearest shelter. Karen Okura of the Anti-Cruelty Society in Chicago describes you, the responsible adopter, as someone “with the patience of a saint” who acknowledges that an animal has his or her own culture and who strives to understand that culture. You have realistic expectations of your future animal companion’s behavior and also have the time, money, and energy for permanent pet parenthood.

Mostly Bs: Permanent pet guardianship is not for you at this time. Consider being a foster parent or adopting a lower-maintenance pet, such as a guinea pig or a lizard. Okura recommends volunteering at your local shelter or rescue.

Mostly Cs: Don’t even sneeze in the direction of a shelter—go straight to puppy cam. According to Okura, you fall into this category if you think that having a pet will fill a void in your life. The decision to adopt a pet needs to be based on more than emotion. All pets are an investment of time and money as well as love.

Dog or cat not your cup of tea?

Adopting a canine or feline friend is a big commitment that not everyone can handle. There are a variety of pets who require less time and energy than dogs and cats but who can still bring the joy of pet parenthood.

An aquarium makes a fun addition to any home and is relatively easy to maintain.

Rodents—from hamsters to rats to rabbits and everything in between—make great first pets for older children.

Your new friend doesn’t have to be furry at all—there are plenty of avian and reptile rescue groups that can help you find your new bird, lizard, snake, turtle, and more.

Adopt a Senior Pet!

Puppies and kittens are adorable—no doubt about that. But the little ones require a lot of time, effort, and patience. Adopting an older animal companion comes with many benefits, and we say just as much cuteness. So what makes adopting a senior pet the smartest choice? According to Jennifer Coccodrilli, founder of Lucy’s Senior Pet Adoption Program at the Animal Rescue Foundation of Southeastern Pennsylvania (ARF SEPA), you should adopt a senior pet if:

You want to save the life of a pet at high risk of being euthanized for space reasons in public shelters.

You can provide a good home, whether the pet is with you for a few short months or years.

You can support the geriatric health and behavioral needs of a senior pet.

You’re ready to teach yourself and others about second chances at love.

You’re ready to get more love than you can ever give.

In addition, older pets are often already housebroken, they can tell the difference from a shoe and a chew toy, and their personalities are already developed—meaning what you see is what you get. Visit your local shelter today and see who’s waiting to come home with you!

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