By Sarah Netherton
June is national Adopt a Shelter Cat Month, as litters of spring babies were recently born and are now in need of a forever home. Before you go running out to your local shelter to pick your new furry best friend, a shelter veterinarian gives some tips on what people should keep in mind before adopting an animal.
Bob Weedon is a shelter veterinarian at the Champaign County Humane Society, as well as the faculty member who oversees the shelter medicine program at the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine in Urbana. He says that before adopting an animal, you should thoroughly think through the ramifications of adoption.
"Adopting a pet is not an impulse decision," Weedon said. "Irresponsible acquisition of a pet contributes to the number of animals being relinquished to shelters. Proper planning will significantly improve the chances that an adopted pet will become a lifelong member of its new household."
He advises setting up an appointment with a veterinarian before the adoption so that you can have your new pet examined within the first week of getting it.
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals estimates that in the first year, the costs of adopting a cat average $1,000, while adopting a dog costs $1,300 to $1,800 or more, depending on its size.
These estimates factor in the cost of high-quality food, medical attention, toys, treats, pet health insurance, spay/neuter surgery and all of the startup costs associated with owning a pet, such as training classes, a litter box or a dog bed. (Details can be found at aspca.org/adoption/pet-care-costs.aspx .)
Because dogs have an average lifespan of 10 to 15 years and cats 15 to 20 years, the cost of ownership is something to heavily consider before adopting any pet. Another consideration is how the pets you already have at home will react to a new kitten or cat.
Weedon says that most shelters, including the Champaign County Humane Society, allow a potential adopter to bring current pets to meet a potential new member of the family.
Are you ready to make the commitment to adopt a cat or a kitten but are unsure which animal might make the best fit for your family?
"Similar to the planning that goes into ensuring that an adoption goes smoothly, adopting the right animal requires some forethought," Weedon said. "Things like lifestyle, including the amount of time to spend with the animal, and the amount of space an adopter has to provide for the new pet or pets are important considerations."
If the adopter is older or less active, adopting an older "lap" animal — a cat that loves to cuddle and be petted — would be the more appropriate choice.
Weedon says if someone is considering adopting a kitten, then perhaps adopt two kittens, so the new addition has a playmate. An older, less active dog could benefit from a younger, more active, playmate. Just be sure to introduce the two in advance to ensure they get along.
"All of these considerations are important to ensure that a new pet fits in and remains a member of the family for life," Weedon said.
An archive of pet columns from the UI College of Veterinary Medicine is available at http://vetmed.illinois.edu/petcolumns/ . Requests for reprints of this article may be directed to Chris Beuoy, firstname.lastname@example.org.