The number of pet adoptions has skyrocketed since we’ve all been staying safer at home. After all, is anything more heartwarming and smile-inducing than the love of a pet? Beyond the obvious benefits of having companionship, many people are taking advantage of the fact that more time at home means more time to integrate a new furry family member. We spoke to a few experts to find out how we can best prepare for dog or cat adoption during this time, and what to consider before taking that leap.
What to Consider Before Pet Adoption During Quarantine
Ask yourself the hard questions.
Dr. Rahel Klapheke (aka “Dr. K”), owner of Parker’s Paws Animal Hospital in Nashville, tells us she’s seeing a clear influx in adoptions and new pet owners during this time. For example, about five times the number of new puppies are being brought in for veterinary services. And while spontaneous purchases might be okay in the grocery store check-out line, choosing a new pet requires some thought and a reality check. “There is no doubt that pets can add fulfillment to your life (I have six!),” says Dr. K. “They offer unconditional love and companionship that is non-judgmental and pure.” She emphasizes that the human-animal bond is an extraordinary one. “However,” she cautions, “it is also a lifetime (their lifetime) commitment. You are now responsible for providing this animal’s basic and medical needs for the rest of its life. You need to think about when things ‘get back to normal.’ Are you going to be able to maintain that care?”
She suggests asking yourself the following pertinent questions:
- Will I be able to afford a pet? Think about food, veterinary bills, training, leashes, crates and grooming expenses.
- Will I have the time to care for this pet when things get back to normal? Will I have time to walk it every day? Time to take it to the vet if it gets ill?
- Do I travel a lot (because now I’m not)? Will I be able to have the pet taken care of when I’m not at home?
If you’re able to answer all of these questions and have a game plan, you’re a few steps closer to adoption.
Do your research.
It may go without saying, but it’s crucial to conduct plenty of research before you adopt a dog or cat. “I would definitely do your research ahead of time on the age group that you’re adopting,” says Katie Pemberton, who serves as the community engagement specialist at Memphis Animal Services, the municipal shelter in Memphis. “If you’re adopting a puppy,” she offers, “how you need to prepare is going to differ from if you’re adopting an adult, which is going to differ from if you’re adopting a senior.” She stresses the importance of having a plan. “Know where you’re going to keep your pet,” she advises. “If it’s a cat, know where the litter box is going. If you have a dog, how are you going to keep it out of the cat’s litter box? If you already have pets, how are you going to introduce them?” These are all crucial things to consider before adopting. If you are looking for additional resources, there are a couple of online options Katie recommends, particularly bestfriends.org, aspca.org and positively.com.
Dave and Betsy Taylor, of Cedar Valley Canine, realize a pet is a big commitment at any time, but say, “If you are considering purchasing or adopting now, make sure you have researched the cost, time and responsibility of it. Everyone is home right now with lots of time to spend training, playing and exercising with their furry friends, but when the world returns to normal, will you still have the time? Vet care is expensive, so make sure you factor that into your decision as well.”
They also note that not all breeds, especially as it pertains to dogs, are suitable for all situations. “When adopting, try to get background information,” they advise, “and if possible, see if they will allow for an evaluation period to make sure the new dog fits into your home and lifestyle. Most reputable rescues allow you to take the dog for a trial period and make sure you like each other.” Keep in mind, however, that during “safer at home,” this may not be advisable or an option.
Get appropriately equipped and enjoy your new pet without breaking the “safer at home” rules.
With all of the new regulations in place to help us thwart the spread of COVID-19, it may leave you wondering how to prepare for a new pet without crossing social distancing boundaries. So, how do you go about accomplishing that?
Obtaining the necessities
First, you’ll need the right food and toys, as well as essential items such as a crate, litter box, leash and collar. Katie of Memphis Animal Services notes, “You can do it all online. Hollywood Feed, Petco, Petsmart, Chewy and Amazon all deliver.” Here at StyleBlueprint, we also encourage you not to underestimate your local, privately owned shops that are currently offering curbside pickup or local delivery. “Think about what they’re going to be eating so you can transition your pet,” Katie continues. “Your local pet supply store is going to have age- and size-appropriate toys. You want to make sure that you’re getting the right size toys because if you don’t, they can be a choking hazard.”
When it comes to the adoption itself, most cities have mandated that pet adoption, reclaiming and foster services can continue as long as they are done by appointment, which allows for limited person-to-person contact. Katie says, “We’re doing adoption by appointment only, and we’re only having one or two people from the public in our shelter at a time. All of our intake is emergency only, per national guidelines, so we don’t have too many animals right now. The most pets we can get out in a day is around four or five.” She suggests looking at adoptable pets online and having at least one you’re interested in before contacting an adoption organization. In fact, she mentions they’ve locked it down a little farther at Memphis Animal Services to reduce exposure. They are letting potential adoptive parents know that they must have a specific pet they are interested in before making an appointment to come in. Memphis Animal Services, the Humane Society of Memphis and Shelby County, the Nashville Humane Association and the Greater Birmingham Humane Society (where you can also adopt pets such as guinea pigs) all have “adoptable pet” rosters posted on their websites. There, you can find photos and information such as the approximate age, estimated breed, and a few personality traits to help you gauge whether or not an animal might fit into your lifestyle.
Katie also encourages you to consider waiting to adopt. “Once all this ends,” she says, “that’s when shelters are really going to need help, because most shelters are doing emergency-only intake right now. I think we’re all kind of expecting an influx of pets ones that ends. So, if you’re an essential worker, and you’re not home right now, maybe after this all ends is when it would be a good time for you to look for a pet. Shelters will really need that.”
While veterinary offices cannot accept walk-ins at this time, and they’re only conducting “essential” visits, they can still see your new pet for vital services. “The puppy and kitten vaccination series is considered vital,” Dr. K relays. “However, elective surgeries, such as spaying and neutering, are not allowed at this time. We will ensure that your pet receives what it needs and let you know what can safely be postponed.” Parker’s Paws has been providing curbside service since March 16, and Dr. K tells us, “We spend about an hour with our new pet parents, and go over everything they need to know, using FaceTime or the phone. It’s been great and has been the silver lining during this pandemic.”
Dr. K also suggests using your “safer at home” time to embrace the outdoors, reiterating that this is the perfect time for both pet and owner to get plenty of exercise. She does, however, caution you to take safety measures. “We know that pets cannot carry the virus directly, but can act as a ‘fomite,’ which means they can carry the virus on their fur, collar or leash. Treat your pet like a package and wipe it down if it comes into contact with another person. The best thing to do is keep your pet six feet away, just like a human.”
Even training is feasible during this time, depending on the organization. Dave and Betsy of Cedar Valley Canine say, “We are allowing drop off and pick up for our boarding and training programs, and we are still doing some outdoor training as well, by practicing appropriate social distancing.” They’ve also posted a collection of short training videos on their YouTube page for added assistance. Thankfully, there are a plethora of videos and online resources at your disposal, ready and waiting to turn you into an animal whisperer. “I am encouraging my owners to watch YouTube videos on training,” says Dr. K. “Now is the best time to get in your back yard and teach your dog some new tricks!”
Choose a pet based on lifestyle, not looks.
You may be drawn to a puppy or kitten, but have young children who aren’t ready to “gently” welcome one into your home. Likewise, you may lean toward large-breed dogs, but live in an apartment complex that doesn’t allow for them. Just because an animal is adorable doesn’t mean it’s the best fit for you, your family, or your home. Katie says, “When considering pet adoption, the one thing I wish everyone knew is that looks are the least important thing. So many people make decisions based on looks and what they see in a photo, or what they see when they walk past the kennel. This is a pet that you’re going to have for years, and I promise you, what they look like is not going to matter to you day-to-day.” She encourages everyone to contemplate what they hope the pet will add to their family and lifestyle, as well as what they’re unwilling to add or tolerate. “Tell those things to the staff or volunteers that work with the animals,” she says. “Ask them to make some suggestions, because that’s where your best matches are going to come from — the people who already know these pets, whether it’s their foster parents or the staff that works at the shelter. That’s where you’re going to get some really good quality information.”
Consider the future.
While we certainly have more time at home to potty train and snuggle these days, the experts acknowledge that more time at home may have its downside. When the Safer at Home Order is lifted, and we all resume our typical schedules, our new pets won’t have the benefit of an owner who’s always around for attention and neighborhood walks. Pets can experience depression too, so consider what steps you might be able to take to help the eventual transition. “Expect there to be a transition period with your new pet when you go back to work,” warns Katie. “What they think life looks like is that everybody is home all the time. So, make a plan for that as well.”
Let love guide you.
The emotional benefits of having pets — now more than ever — is a huge gift if you’re ready for the responsibility. Consider one of Dr. K’s recent veterinary cases. “I am going to get teary-eyed about this one,” she says, recalling a recent experience with Riddick, a black cat who was lying unconscious in a yard — apparently a stray. “A good Samaritan brought him into our clinic comatose, underweight, dehydrated and non-responsive,” Dr. K continues. “We were about to close for the weekend, so I got him on fluids and supportive care and brought him back to my house. We posted him on the Next Door app. Sure enough, only hours later, his owners claimed him! They had lost him months earlier and thought he was gone. They picked him up, took him to the ER for the weekend, and now he is doing great. The owners send me regular pictures of him happy and healthy on their laps during their quarantine. They said he’s helping them get through this tough time. I mean, if he can do it, we can do it, right?”
If you’re not ready to adopt, fostering can be a beautiful way to get acclimated to the idea of being a pet owner, while also giving not-yet-adopted pets some interim TLC. If you are interested in fostering, we recommend researching your local rescues to get information on current fostering programs.
Your heart knows whether or not you are ready to introduce a new pet into your family, your home and your life. Sure, there will be an adjustment period, and you will likely spend some of your quarantine time cleaning up pee puddles on the kitchen floor, but it’s a small price to pay. The return on your investment will come in the form of wagging tails and cat purrs, and what more can you ask for — both now and forever?
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