By Helena Oliviero
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Please, please - "Can we get a pet?" It's a question many of us get from our kids.
Adding a pet to the home is an exciting experience that can be especially rewarding. But for many potential pet owners, the process of finding the right pet can seem a little overwhelming. Here are some things to consider:
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1. What you should ask yourself when adopting a pet?
Adopting a pet is an exciting experience and can bring a great addition into your family, so it's important to find an animal that fits your lifestyle. Plus adopting an animal and giving them a forever home can be a really rewarding experience, considering the numerous stray and abandoned animals in our city.
When considering adopting a pet, ask yourself several key questions. The most important one - how long is my family regularly away from home during the day? For example, puppies - especially those that are still being housebroken - need to be let out every several hours, depending on their age, while older dogs can often be kept inside for longer periods of time. Other questions you should consider include:
-What is our living space like? Do we live in an apartment? Do we have a yard? Is our home already pet-proof?
-Does anyone in my family have allergies? Certain dogs and cats are more likely to shed.
-Are we near a dog park or other public space where my pet could regularly exercise and socialize with other animals?
-How experienced are we with having a pet and dog training?
2. What should you ask the shelter when adopting a pet?
Adoption counselors at the shelter will also work closely with you to find an animal that meets your needs, so it's important to have very open and honest communication about your situation. Here are a few questions you should ask them about the pets you're interested in:
-Is this pet more high energy or low energy?
-Are they good with other animals and children?
-Are there any medical needs we should be aware of?
3. What should you expect when visiting a shelter and how can you best use your time?
Before visiting your county shelter, peruse their websites and Facebook pages. Some shelters post pictures and information about available, adoptable animals as soon as they arrive. This way, you can identify a few pets you're definitely interested in meeting even before you enter the shelter. Once you're at the shelter, the adoption counselors will work closely with you to find the perfect pet for your family. They are there to help and are experts in their field. They can direct you to certain pets you saw online and can also connect you with other pets that might be a great fit.
Don't forget to bring the whole family or at least those who will be most involved in the animal's care. A pet is another family member, so you want to make sure everyone connects with the new addition. You can even bring your other pets to see how they interact.
Make sure to spend at least 15 to 20 minutes with each potential pet in the play area. Most shelters have a designated space where adopters can interact with the animals. Give the pet a little time to settle down after entering the play area and then see how he engages with your family, whether she likes toys, how responsive he is to you, her energy level and more. This is key bonding time between your family and your potential pet.
4. What are the care items you should have for transitioning the pet to your home?
When visiting the shelter, be prepared to potentially take home a pet that day, especially if she or he is already spayed or neutered. It's a good idea to bring a crate or carrier as well as a leash for transporting. To make the transition as seamless as possible, have a designated pet area set up at home, complete with a bed, food and water bowls, treats, toys and kitty box and litter, if applicable. Ask what type of food the animal has been eating at the shelter. If you want to change brands or type, it's often easier to wean them off slowly.Adopting a pet is an exciting, rewarding endeavor, but it's also an important responsibility.
Visit The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Atlanta, Ga.) at www.ajc.com
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