Welcoming a new furry addition to your family is always fun and exciting, but it is important to remember that a smooth transition for you and your new family member takes a great amount of preparation and work. Here are some tips to ensure you have the best possible adoption experience.

1. A pet is a lifetime commitment. Cats can live up to 20 years and dogs can live up to 15. It is crucial to know that this is a real, long-term commitment to love and care for an animal no matter what. Going forward, your pet's well-being must be considered in all kinds of decisions including travel, social life, home life and/or relocation, adopting other pets, and having children, among other things.

2. Check the requirements. First and foremost, verify that you can have a pet where you live. This is especially important if you're renting a property or belong to a home owner's association. Shelters recommend you look into required documentation in order to complete the adoption process. This could include leases or proof of residency to vet references.

3. Check your wallet. It's no secret that pets are costly, so make sure this is a commitment you can afford. Most shelters have an adoption fee, not to mention the cost of pet supplies, food, spay/neuter, regular and emergency visits, grooming, etc.

4. Pet-proof your home. Just like preparing for a new baby, it is important to make sure your home is safe for a new cat or dog. Make sure valuable items and chemicals are properly stored. If you have a yard, make sure it is properly secured to prevent your pet from escaping. Don't hesitate to buy supplies before your pet comes home, such as leashes, collars, toys, bedding, and crates.

5. Do your research. Experts suggest researching breeds and characteristics to identify animals that best fit your living situation and lifestyle. Discover what size, age, and energy level pet is most appropriate for you. Never adopt on a whim. Researching shelters is important, as well. Touring the shelter or checking out their website beforehand can give you a good idea of what the shelter has to offer and the requirements needed for adoption.

6. It's all about chemistry. Though you may have your heart set on a certain breed, it's important to keep an open mind, and go where the chemistry leads you. If you already have a dog, bring them into the shelter for a meet-and-greet with your potential pet to ensure a safe introduction and positive chemistry. Remember to consider the affects that bringing home a new pet will have on your current pet.

7. Ask questions. Don't be afraid to ask about anything. Knowing your potential pet's health history, behavioral history, and how they ended up in the shelter can help you prepare for what's in store once you bring them home.

8. Plan for an adjustment period. There are going to be adjustments and challenges. It's important to remember that these are temporary. New environments are scary, so create a safe space for your pet - whether that's their own room or private, quiet area - and allow them to get used to their new surroundings on their own terms. They'll eventually become comfortable and step out of their shell.

9. Ensure your new pet's health and happiness. Animals can stray from home and get lost, so consider having them registered and micro-chipped. Enroll in training to help establish proper behavior and create a bond.  Provide sufficient exercise and stimulation according to your new pet's needs, including walks, playtime with toys, spending time talking to and petting your new family member, and taking part in family activities.

Other things to consider
  • Accept if it's not a good fit. Most shelters have a return policy and would much prefer a returned pet than a stressful situation for both parties or an abandoned pet.
  • Never give pets as gifts.
  • Know that adopting a pet for your child most likely means the responsibility is yours and that you will be caring for the pet.
  • While we suggest adopting from a shelter, we understand that this isn't always best for your lifestyle. Know the breeder you are adopting from, and make sure they are responsible and registered. We do not recommend buying an animal from a pet store or puppy mill.
Remember that adoption is a beautiful thing. Not only are you saving a life, you're gaining a new family member that will show their appreciation and love every single day!