If a pet is on your list of possible holiday gifts this year, local humane societies might be the place to find one.
The following questions, were provided by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which recommends that you answer them before adopting:
1. Why do you want to adopt a pet? Maybe you want a companion for your child. Knowing why you're preparing to bring a pet home will help you to determine the species and breed that will fit your lifestyle.
2. Are you ready to make a long-term commitment? When adopting, you are making a commitment to care for an animal for the rest of his life. That could mean 10 to 15 years for dogs and as long as 20 years for cats. As you go through lifestyle changes — moves, the birth of children and new jobs — your animal will remain a permanent part of your life. If circumstances change, will you be able to care for your pet?
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3. Do you know what kind of pet is right for you? You should consider your personality and lifestyle, and other factors, including your living space and how much time you spend at home, to determine what pet is right for your household. Research various breeds and ask shelter staffers what animals they recommend. They're experts at making perfect matches.
4. Can you afford to care for your pet's health and safety? Owning a dog or cat involves more expense than the initial adoption fee. Food, veterinary care, spaying or neutering and proper identification — that means a collar with tags and a more permanent form of ID, such as microchipping — can add up.
5. Will you be able to spend quality time together? Dogs thrive on several hours of exercise and companionship every day, and pooches who are constantly left alone can develop behavioral problems. Cats are healthiest and happiest indoors and love to be treated to energetic play sessions with their human families. If your work demands that you travel often, or if you're out of the house most days and evenings, this might not be the right time to adopt.
6. Are you prepared to deal with an animal's health problems? Fleas, allergies and unexpected illness or injury are just a few of the health-related problems that potential pet owners can face. Can you care for your pet if he gets sick?
7. Are you willing to train your animal companion? Lack of training is one of the most common reasons that adopters return pets to shelters — are you willing to solve behavior problems? Basic training helps dogs and their owners communicate better, strengthening the relationship overall.
8. Are you prepared to pet-proof your home? Whether it's tightly sealing your garbage cans or paying attention to dangerous decorations during the holidays, you'll need to make your home safe before adopting. That includes keeping toxic foods, pet-unfriendly plants and dangerous household items out of paw's reach.
9. Is your living space adequate for an animal companion? Be sure to choose an animal who will thrive in your home. If you're attracted to energetic large-breed dogs but live in a small apartment, will your pooch have enough room? If you live on a noisy street, will it disturb your cat?
10. Is your family ready for a pet? If your kids are toddlers, you might consider waiting a few years before adopting, as pet ownership ideally is a team effort. Children who are mature enough can happily share pet-care duties. You also might have another pet at home who's not yet — or might never be — ready to share his kingdom with another animal.