Pet adoption is a topic on the minds of many Americans. When we seek to adopt a pet we have many options.

Your neighbor’s pet may have given birth and he may be looking for homes for the offspring. You may have seen a notice at your veterinarian’s office for pets that need homes. You might have even seen some kids on the side of the road with kittens or puppies “Free To A Good Home”.

However, the vast majority of true pet adoptions occur at the thousands of humane shelters around the country. There are probably several in your community.

Second to that would be rescue groups, both breed-specific and non-specific. These are easily found on the Internet and provide an excellent source of pets in need of homes. It is easy to locate a breed you like, without contributing to new population, as breeders do.

For example, my wife and I like poodles. In a search for “poodle rescue” there were thirteen hits on the first page alone. Be aware, though, that breeder Web sites also came up on the “poodle rescue” search.

So, you’ve made the decision to adopt a pet, now let’s help you refine exactly what pet you want to adopt.

Should I adopt a cat or should I adopt a dog? Should I adopt an adult cat or adopt a kitten? Do I want to
adopt a puppy or adopt an adult dog? So many decisions!


Some folks are dog people and some are cat people. Some can have only one pet and must make a decision between a dog or a cat (and some pet lovers can have one or more of each). is here to help you decide.





small, good for indoors, apartments

require a litterbox, which must be cleaned regularly

all sizes for all tastes

require more human-pet interaction than cats

require somewhat less human-pet interaction than dogs

some cats may claw furniture

daily walks are good for pets and people

must be taken outdoors for bathroom breaks, or paper-trained

can be left at home for short trips using automated feeder


a puppy acclimated to travel early in life makes a great travel companion

must be boarded or have a sitter if not going with you on trips


longhaired cats must be brushed at least daily


barking may bother apartment-dwellers or close neighbors

typical indoor cat lifespan is 15-20 years (3-7 years for outdoor cats)


the larger the dog the more food and medications cost. Also, larger dogs typically have a shorter lifespan

will let you sleep late


might get you up early to use the bathroom


some breeds require regular grooming






owner gets to establish much of behavior through early training

in most cases you’re saving a life

owner gets to establish much of behavior through early training

in most cases you’re saving a life

doesn’t require housetraining

doesn’t require housetraining

puppies require housetraining routine

get to skip housetraining if already trained

good for children to grow up with kitten

most cats are docile with children

good for children to grow up with puppy

may have already been acclimated to children

Typically if you are adopting from a humane shelter or rescue group some preventive care has already been done. The basics are physical examination, vaccinations (with boosters, if first-time vaccinations or if vaccination history is unknown), stool test for intestinal parasites and heartworm preventive. For dogs over six months of age a heartworm test is mandatory and cats must be tested for Feline Leukemia Virus and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus, with repeat testing in two months.

If some basics have not been performed, you will be responsible for having those procedures done right away.

Remember, you are not purchasing a pet! In the case of every humane shelter and virtually all rescue groups, you are supporting a non-profit entity that operates on donations alone. You have no right to a guarantee or to expect a perfect pet. If the cat or dog you like has some defects, illnesses or problems you have the right to choose a different adoptee or pay to have those problems treated.

Don’t bite off more than you can chew. If you like a pet but it has heartworms, diabetes or some other chronic illness that will require lifelong care, and you lack the financial or emotional resources to care for the pet, you’re doing neither him nor you any favors by adopting that pet. Choose one that’s within your means. Just because a pet is up for adoption doesn’t mean it’s an adoptable pet for you.

Even when the initial veterinary care is done your responsibilities don’t end. Pets should have a good examination every six months for life, or at least once every twelve months. They need regular vaccination boosters, a heartworm test and stool test for intestinal parasites at least annually. Both cats and dogs must be on a monthly heartworm preventive.

Then there’s food. Like you, pets need to eat healthy food, so you can’t scrimp and buy store brand or other cheap pet foods. I have a saying, “Pet food is truly one of those items for which you get what you pay for.” As you budget for pet adoptions, be sure to allow for good pet food cost.

While budgeting, you would be wise to set aside an emergency fund and to look into the cost of pet health insurance premiums. Pet health insurance  can more than pay for itself in the case of a life-threatening illness or injury.

In summary, pet adoption is up all over the country. In fact, pet adoptions are so high in certain areas that they must import adoptable pets from low-adoption-rate areas. Sadly, though, that is not widely the case. Euthanasia is the fate of about three times the number of pets adopted. Pet adoption centers need your help to improve adoption rates. Adoptable pets abound, and there is simply no good reason to purchase a pet from a breeder.

Whether you adopt a dog, cat, kitten or puppy you will be in for the entertainment of a lifetime and you will have a friend who will never turn his back on you.

And, of course, have all of your pets spayed or neutered.

Click here to read more on Pet Adoption

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