Thinking about adopting a pet this spring? Make sure you are prepared.
Owning a pet can come with many different benefits, from family bonding experiences to positive impacts on an individual’s physical and mental health. However, deciding which animal will be your “purr-fect” match and preparing for your new family member’s arrival may leave you with lots of unanswered questions.
To help you navigate your way through the whole process, Brooke Hotchkiss, the development specialist of the Humane Society of West Michigan (HSWM), helped GR|MAG compile a list of 10 tips and tricks to find and care for your new furry friend:
Tips for the Adoption Process
Decide what type of pet you want. Do you want an energetic, playful companion or a laid-back friend to hang out and cuddle with at home? To help you discover which pet is right for you, the HSWM will have you fill out an application with various questions, depending on if you are interested in adopting a dog, cat or small critter.
Be realistic about your lifestyle and expectations. What does your day-to-day look like? Are you gone eight-plus hours a day? Do you have time to potty train or go on walks throughout the day? Depending on your home life, the HSWM encourages adopters to be thoughtful about their capacity to care for their companion and be willing to take on all responsibilities that come with owning a pet.
Browse online at the adoptable pets and fill out the application to speed up the process. Check out the HSWM’s website for updates to find out more information on which animals are up for adoption. If the pet’s profile is no longer shown online, it means they have been adopted. If you already have your eyes set on an animal, you can download an application online and fill it out before your meeting with the adoption counselor.
Bring your current pet’s medical history. To ensure that both animals’ health and wellbeing are protected, it is important to be informed of your current pet’s behavior, personality and medical history. The adoption counselor can also answer any question you may have regarding the future fur siblings.
Wait for the right time and fit. Some people may fall in love and walk away with a new family member that same day, but for others, it may take longer and that is okay. Once you are pre-approved to adopt, your paperwork will stay on file for the next six months and you can continue to come back until you find your furry soulmate. Because adopting is a lifetime commitment, the HSWM wants to ensure it works for the entire family so both the adopters and the adoptees walk away happy.
Tricks for Preparation and Care
Consider who else lives at home. Prepare a special place away from other animals or children so your pet can relax and adjust to the new home. Keep toys, bones, litterboxes and anything else that might cause jealousy separated so neither the new or old pet feels threatened or territorial.
Supervise all interactions with children and animals. Teach children the appropriate way to interact with the animal so they will not startle the new pet. If you are introducing a dog and a cat, place the cat on a raised surface, such as on a table or dresser, so the cat feels less threatened. Before introducing two cats, separate them in different rooms, and after a day or so, place the cats in each other’s areas so they can get a sense of each other and become accumulated to the fact that there is another furry friend in the house. If everything seems to go well, allow the cats to meet one another through some sort of divider, such as a screen, baby gate, or crate. The HSWM also offers dog-to-dog and dog-to-child meetings to see if it is the right fit.
Keep calm and remain consistent. Because your pet may be stressed in the new environment, keep the home’s atmosphere peaceful and quiet. To lessen anxiety, avoid inviting too many people over to your house or taking your pet to the dog park too soon. Stay on the same schedule and routine for feeding, playtime, walks and bedtime to help train the new pet and avoid accidents.
Use positive reinforcements. To accelerate the training and adjustment processes, reinforcing a good behavior has been proven to be more effective than punishing your pet when they have an accident or misbehave.
Ask the behavioral staff post-adoption questions and take classes at the HSWM. The HSWM provides behavior counseling to assist you with all your questions and concerns post-adoption and offers various classes for everyone, from exuberant puppies to shy adults.
What if I am not ready to adopt?
If you are not ready for a long-term commitment, there several ways to get involved and have fun with some furry friends. The HSWM offers various volunteer opportunities and educational programming for all ages, including walking dogs, socializing with cats, reading to animals, learning about animal safety, and participating in winter, spring and summer youth camps.
Another lifesaving way to volunteer is to foster an animal, which can be done anywhere from a week to a couple months. Whether its kittens in need of some time to grow or dogs in need of a quiet environment, fostering is very beneficial because it allows animals to receive one-on-one attention in peace and it “provides potential adopters with great information about how they behave in a home setting,” said Hotchkiss.
To learn more about the organization, available animals up for adoption, and the different volunteer and foster opportunities, visit the HSWM website or stop by their office.
*Photos courtesy of Humane Soceity of West Michigan