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Everything you need to consider before adopting a pet

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By Sarah Walker, Espresso


Everything you need to consider before adopting a pet

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Adopting a pet can be a rewarding and wonderful experience—but only if you’ve prepared yourself for the enormous life shift that will happen when you bring your furry friend home. Whether you want a dog or a cat, there are some things to consider ahead of any adoption. Here are 20.


Consider the cost

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According to the ASPCA, the annual cost of care for a healthy pet can add up. “A large dog… will likely require an average yearly food allowance of $225, while a bird’s diet is sparse in comparison, requiring an outlay of only $75 per year. Rabbits and guinea pigs love fresh bedding, which totals a whopping $415 per year, versus a fastidious feline, whose litter costs a modest yearly average of $165,” the organization notes on its website.


Size matters

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If you live in a cramped condo, but love big dogs, you may want to consider holding off on bringing a pup home until you have the appropriate amount of space. As The Spruce Pets notes, small dogs do best in small spaces, while bigger dogs tend to require larger areas to roam or run around.


Every breed is different

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“Some people think Jack Russell Terriers are so cute, but they require a lot of work because they have a lot of energy,” Stephanie Knight, communications specialist at the SPCA of Texas, tells NBC’s Clear The Shelters. “So if you don’t go for walks or outside much, you may want to consider getting something like a pug.” The takeaway: pick the animal breed or variety that suits your lifestyle and personality best, which includes your preference for animals that shed or are hypo-allergenic.


It’s a lifelong commitment

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As Gail Buchwald, senior vice president of the ASPCA Adoption Center, tells Mashable, cats can live up to 15 to 20 years, while the average dog’s lifespan is 10 to 15. That’s a long-term commitment. She advises clients make “sure everyone involved in the care of [a] pet is on board for the long haul.”


You’ll need to clear your house of certain plants

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If you have a green thumb, you may have to reconsider which items you plant or harvest if you get a new pet. There are a number of plants that can seriously harm or kill an animal if they ingest its leaves, like palms, tulips, lilies and azaleas, notes the ASPCA. The organization also advises that any plant material may cause vomiting and gastrointestinal upset in most dogs and cats.


Your kitchen may need to be reorganized

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There are also a number of everyday food items that can cause health complications in pets, notes the ASPCA, like alcohol, avocados, chocolate, coffee, citrus, grapes, nuts and onions. You may want to move any possibly toxic items to higher ground so mischievous animals can’t get into them.


Maintaining mealtime can be a challenge at first

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If you don’t have a job where you can work from home or can’t afford to hire a day-to-day pup caretaker, you should give some thought to your furry friend’s feeding schedule. According to the ASPCA, eight- to 12-week-old pups need four meals a day, while those who are three to six months require three. By the time a dog reaches his/her first birthday, one or two meals will suffice.


You’ll want to begin a veterinarian hunt early

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Just like you’d research a doctor for yourself, you should do some digging into the best veterinarians in your area. You’ll want to make sure they meet some basic care standards and are available around the clock should anything happen to your pet after-hours. Online resources can help you find a reputable clinic near your home.


Vaccination is mandatory

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According to the ASPCA, there are several vaccinations most pets should get—many are even mandated by law. “Your veterinarian can best determine a vaccination schedule for your pet. This will depend on the type of vaccine, your pet’s age, medical history, environment and lifestyle,” the organization notes on its website.


Do some shelter research

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“Not all animal shelters are the same,” notes PETA. “Fortunate homeless and unwanted animals end up in the hundreds of open-admission animal shelters that are staffed by professional, caring people.” Before you decide to adopt your pet, do your research. Does the shelter you’re looking at have good reviews online? Is the shelter clean? Are there veterinarians on staff? Do some digging before jumping at the first cute pet you see.


Heartworm is real, and very dangerous

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There are a number of viruses and diseases that can harm the health of your pet, and one of the biggest is heartworm. “Heartworm is a parasitic worm that lives in the heart and pulmonary arteries of an infected animal. The worms travel through the bloodstream—harming arteries and vital organs as they go—ultimately completing their journey to the vessels of the lung and the heart chamber about six months after the initial infection. Several hundred worms can live in one dog for five to seven years,” notes the ASPCA. Other diseases you should get to know include ringworm, parvovirus and kennel cough.


You’ll want to be comfortable with the idea of fleas and ticks

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Just like young kids will eventually bring home lice, any pet you adopt will one day bring home fleas or ticks. The ASPCA says they’re two of the most frequent pet concerns (they’re also among the most annoying for pet parents). So what should you know? Fleas are “wingless insects that feed on blood, can jump up to two feet high and are persistent in the environment.” Ticks are “parasites that feed on the blood of unlucky host animals, such as cats and dogs.” They can also transmit a number of dangerous diseases. Your vet can help you try to prevent occurrences of these pesky invaders.


You should spay or neuter

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Believe it or not, but The Humane Society of the United States says the single best thing you can do for your new pet is to spay or neuter them. Not only will either protect their health, it will curb bad behaviour like marking. “Spaying or neutering your dog should reduce urine-marking and may stop it altogether,” the site notes. While, “for cats, the urge to spray is extremely strong… and the simplest solution is to get yours neutered or spayed by 4 months of age… neutering solves 90 percent of all marking issues.”


Do you have or want kids?

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There is plenty of research that shows kids and pets can share an amazing and healthy bond, but that doesn’t mean you can bring any pet home to play with your wee ones. You’ll want to research what breeds work best with tiny tots, then follow a few tips once you choose a dog or cat to call your own. “Teach your children to treat animals gently and with respect… [and] never leave a young child alone with an animal,” notes the Canadian Paediatric Society. “Accidents can happen when children tease pets or touch them in a way that makes them uncomfortable… [and] don’t allow your pets to sleep with children… [or] to roam alone in a baby’s room.”


Your schedule won’t be as flexible

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“Dogs benefit from several hours of exercise and companionship every day. Cats are healthiest and happiest indoors and love to be treated to energetic play sessions,” notes the ASPCA. “If your work demands that you travel often, or if you're out of the house most days and evenings, this may not be the right time to adopt.”


What about other pets?

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Believe it or not, but most shelters (like the SPCA) will require that all dogs meet other pets you own to ensure compatibility between the breeds and species. Many previously owned animals can become territorial when a new pet enters their space. As Paws notes, it’s essential you have realistic expectations about the relationship your new and resident pets will form; it may take time to blossom.


Adopted pets can suffer from separation anxiety

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Because of what they’ve experienced on the road to adoption, some pets may experience separation anxiety from their new owners. “Separation anxiety is triggered when dogs become upset because of separation from their guardians, the people they're attached to,” notes the ASPCA. “Escape attempts by dogs with separation anxiety are often extreme and can result in self-injury and household destruction, especially around exit points like windows and doors.” A trained veterinarian can help you and your new animal friend cope.


Pets can’t brave the elements

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Unlike humans who can ask for water if they’re hot, pets don’t show true signs of overheating save for panting or drooling. That’s why it’s imperative you keep them inside an air-conditioned space in the summer. (Some pet breeds—like those with flat faces—are even more susceptible to heat than others.) In the winter, you’ll also need to keep them inside—or bundle them up in protective gear for romps in the snow. That includes putting booties on dogs, so they don’t get road salt stuck in their paws.


You need to go shopping

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To ensure your pet feels comfortable and safe in your home, you’ll want to buy them a few things like toys, food bowls, collars and leashes as well as pet beds or crates. You’ll also want to have a vacuum on hand if your new pet sheds, as well as some solid cleaning products (including shampoo meant for your adopted family member). All of these costs can add up, budget-wise.


Happy pets are well-trained

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According to PETA Kids, happy pets—especially dogs—have clear boundaries set for them, and the easiest way to ensure that is to undertake some professional training. “It’s important to guide new pups with positive rewards. They’ll repeat good behavior if they’re praised for it—just like human kiddos! And don’t ever lock them in a crate or yell at them for ‘misbehaving’—that will just make them afraid of you,” their site notes. “Dogs can’t possibly know how you want them to behave until you and your family teach them.”

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