Holiday adoption trends and how to choose your pet

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Holiday adoption trends and how to choose your pet - A border collie lying in a bed of yellow leaves

Are you considering adopting or fostering a new pet this holiday season? Adopting a pet is a big commitment and shouldn't be a casual decision. Here are some considerations you should keep in mind before you bring home a new family pet:

  • Are you ready to take on a life-long commitment for pets given as holiday gifts?
  • Is the pet compatible with your home?
  • Should you foster or adopt during the holidays?
  • How can you choose the perfect pet for you and your family?

Pets as holiday gifts

The holidays are a hectic time of year. It's a time for family gatherings, travel, and gift-giving. It's also a peak season for welcoming new furry companions into our homes.

While a pet wrapped in a red bow on Christmas day might seem like a fond memory forever etched in a family member’s mind, caring for a pet is a life-long commitment. There’s also the bustle of the holidays and your pet’s well-being to consider. With all this in mind, the holidays aren’t usually the best time to bring home a new pet.

Before taking the plunge, consider: are you willing to care for the pet for the rest of its life, even if you are gifting it to another family member in your household? Here are other factors to bear in mind:

  • Does your family member truly want a pet? Speak to them before pursuing pet adoptions
  • Is a new pet appropriate for the home? Other pets in the home might not be suited to having a roommate
  • Not all soon-to-be pet owners (including adults) understand the needs a pet requires
  • Are you willing to devote yourself to life-long pet duties if the excitement wanes?
  • Are you able to plan for pet care when you travel?
  • Both cats and dogs need consistent vet and dental care
  • Dogs need daily walks and consistent behavior training
  • Are you able to feed your pet and give them fresh water daily?
  • Animals have individual personalities: not every dog or cat is a suitable match for your household
  • Pets need daily activity and time for affection, attention, and stimulation

Pet shelters are busy during the holidays

Shelters encourage pet adoptions, and there are many loving and wonderful pets in shelters waiting to be adopted. Unfortunately, some shelters have reported that it is common to see an uptick in pet returns after the holidays. Pets who have been surrendered multiple times are among the most difficult to adopt out in the future, so rethinking a holiday pet adoption often leaves vulnerable animals homeless for life.

Pet surrenders occur for many reasons such as when a pet is incompatible with the people in your household, or you begin to realize that you, your child, or a family member are not ready to take care of an animal. While shelter pets are not usually returned in droves, some animal shelters and adoption groups have reported a spike in pets surrendered due to these reasons and more recently, the higher cost of living.

According to a study by the National Institute of Health (NIH), the rate of return for the number of companion animals returned to animal shelters within the first six months of adoption is estimated to be around 7% to 20% in the US.

A more prudent way to capture the spirit of giving a pet to someone is to invest in a gift card that covers the cost of adoption while the recipient decides which pet is compatible with their household. Read on to learn more about compatibility and adoption over the holidays.

Consider fostering a pet before committing to adoption

Imagine setting a bunch of random alarms on your phone throughout the day. That's what it can be like to have a dog. They not only need your attention and care at different unplanned times, but they need enough opportunities to go outside and relieve themselves throughout the day. Most dogs are happiest when they go on long walks daily. Walking a dog takes time, energy, and patience.

On the other hand, cats are famous for their independence. Although cats in general do not need as much daily effort and time as dogs do, it is still important to consider what having a cat in your home means for both of you. Cats can be very fussy about their environment. Keeping their litter boxes clean and smelling fresh, their water dishes crystal clear, and keeping up with year round shedding can add up to a lot of extra chores for an unprepared human. In addition, most cats need some mental stimulation and exercise every day to keep them healthy and happy.

Each animal has a different temperament and personality. Certain breeds are prone to specific health problems, and not every individual from a given breed will have predictable personality traits. Most vets encourage potential pet parents to spend time with individual animals before committing to adoption. Spending time with an animal before adoption and consulting with a vet on potential health costs is a meaningful way of learning if a pet fits your household and helps reduce the likelihood of needing to surrender after making an adoption decision.

One of the best ways to learn more about what a pet is like is to spend time with them before adoption.

Fostering can help guide you into coming to a final decision, even if the dog or cat you foster doesn’t end up being your forever pet. If you feel ready to explore the idea of fostering before adopting a pet, rest assured you will help alleviate the overwhelming demand placed on shelters, especially during the holidays. You’ll also get the unique opportunity to see if the pet is truly right for you. People usually foster pets in their homes anywhere between 2-8 weeks.

How to adopt a pet that is compatible with your family and home

One practical question to ask yourself is whether you or anyone in your household may be allergic to certain types of pets. Next, you’ll need to sort out if you can afford the extra expenses of owning a pet. If there are children in the home, will the adults be able to manage the increased headcount? Are the children old enough to learn how to treat animals with the care and respect they need to avoid any dangerous interactions?

Here are some basic expenses to consider when calculating the financial commitment of a pet:

  • Routine care: quality pet food, dental care, grooming, and annual medical check-ups are ongoing, consistent costs that are not expected to decline as your pet ages
  • Emergency planning: medical emergencies are among the most costly vet bills and should be budgeted for throughout your pet’s life as a precautionary measure
  • Travel plans and expenses: if your lifestyle or vacation time includes travel, how will you accommodate your pet? Will you be able to take them with you and what will doing so cost? If you plan to leave them at home, costs are associated with boarding or pet sitting (unless you have a caretaker who is willing to do you a favor!)

Adoption rates can vary depending on your location. Puppy and kitten animal adoptions usually cost more than adopting an adult pet. For example, the average cost of adoption fees for dogs and cats seven months and older in New York City is $75 versus $250 for pets under six months old.

Ideally, see if you can foster the animal you have your eye on before going ahead with adoption. If you have your heart set on a holiday surprise for the kids, here's a checklist to consider while searching for the perfect pet that is compatible with your family:

  • Will you be able to provide quality care and time for your pet (for life)?
  • Do you have the space for this type of pet?
  • Do you like to be active and outdoors?
  • Are you more of an indoor person?
  • Will your children participate and take the responsibility for having a pet?
  • Do you already own a pet? What will you do if your new addition and loyal companion don’t get along?
  • Are you prepared for a pet that may develop health issues and require ongoing medical care?

Introducing a new pet into a home where animals are already settled together may also be a challenge. Health considerations should be addressed early on to avoid infecting your other pets. Be sure your new pet is checked by a vet and gets a clean bill of health prior to introducing them to your household and other pets. Newly adopted pets may carry contagious conditions like kennel cough or feline leukemia virus, or parasites like scabies or mange along with fleas and ticks. If you are bringing home a new cat or kitten, check for signs of ear mites as these are common in cats and can easily spread from pet to pet.

Benefits of pet adoption

Having a pet is one of the most rewarding experiences life has to offer. Pets are loyal, loveable, and can be a delight to spend time with, but caring for animals takes devotion, time, and financial resources. Adopting a pet should not be taken lightly or done on impulse. It takes planning and financial preparation to ensure your new family member is able to live a long, healthy life.

Before adopting a pet this holiday season, carefully consider whether you are ready to make the time and financial commitment required. If you are, then adopt a pet that is compatible with your family and home.

While most shelters and adoption centers welcome adoption during the holidays with open arms, a veterinarian can help you explore options and guide you in finding the perfect pet for your household for everyone's benefit.

Schedule an online vet appointment to speak with a qualified professional to help guide you in your choice, and share your thoughts and expectations of what you are looking for in a pet. Then, once your new pet arrives, schedule an in-clinic vet appointment with your pet for an initial appointment to assess overall health and address any concerns you may have.

FAQ - Pet adoption

Why should you adopt a senior pet?

Senior pets are fully developed, which provides information about their personality type and any grooming and health requirements up front. Unlike puppies or kittens, senior pets are likely to be less active. They also tend to have more health concerns, so bringing a senior pet into your family can be a wonderful way to truly rescue a pet who needs specialized care.

How to acclimate your pet to their new home during the holidays or any time of year?

Allow your pet to adjust to the new environment by sniffing around and familiarizing themselves with the space. Minimize the holiday bustle in your home. Large gatherings and disruptions from their routine can negatively affect your pet's stress levels, especially as they are adapting to a new environment and family. Spend lots of time with and enjoy your new fur baby while they are settling into their new home.

What is one of the most popular dog breeds to adopt?

If you are thinking about getting a new pet to add to your family this holiday season, golden retrievers are one of the most sought-after dog breeds. Goldens are great with families, and in general, get along with everyone and other pets in the family. They are intelligent, affectionate, and eager to please.