Congratulations on deciding to adopt a pet! You have made an amazing decision that will be life changing for you both. When you adopt a dog or cat, rather than purchasing from a breeder, not only are you providing a home for a deserving animal, but you may also be saving a life. This is because many shelters euthanize animals when they run out of room.

Unfortunately, there are irresponsible breeders out there who are only in it for the money. You’ve probably heard of puppy mills, and even kitten mills, which breed animals in inhumane conditions. Not all breeders are bad, of course, but when you adopt, you can be confident that you aren’t supporting these questionable practices.

Where to Start?

When you’re ready to adopt a pet, there are a lot of decisions to make. Before visiting a shelter, do some research about breed characteristics so you know what to expect (and which traits best suit your family). You may not know every shelter animal’s breed or mix, but you can often make a good guess, so having this knowledge is helpful. How do you know when you’ve found “the one”? Besides looking for the qualities that best fit your lifestyle, pay close attention to how the animal interacts with you. Some shelter pets are shy at first, but you may still feel the chemistry that he or she is the one for you.

Preparing to Bring Your Pet Home

Whatever type of pet you adopt, messes come with the territory of having an animal. So, prepare your house before a new dog or cat comes home with the right supplies and a plan for handling these problems. Some shelter dogs are already house trained, but puppies and sometimes older dogs can have “accidents” at first. Brush up on tricks for house training, and make sure you have cleaning supplies on hand so you can keep floors clean and free of pet odors.

Having other essential supplies can also help keep your home clean and reduce the risk of damage. Apartment Therapy explains how using a crate gives Fido a safe place to stay when you aren’t home while also keeping him out of trouble. If you adopt a cat, a scratching pad or post is a necessity. Cats need to scratch — it’s a fact of nature — and having a place where scratching is allowed gives them an alternative to damaging furniture.

Another essential step is to pet-proof your home, regardless of your pet’s age. Animals are curious, so it’s up to you to remove anything dangerous from their reach. The blog Wags and Walks recommends getting down on your pet’s level and moving any electrical cords, toxic houseplants, and any other potential hazards you see. You also need to be prepared with essential supplies, including healthy food, bowls, toys, a bed, and a leash and collar for dogs. If you’re bringing home a cat, make sure you have litter box. You can even purchase a window perch so your new cat can stay entertained watching all the activity outdoors.

Settling In

Even when you have everything in place, it takes time for a new pet to get used to their home. Introduce them to your space slowly, and give them time to explore. You may want to have kids and other family members wait somewhere else initially so your new pet doesn’t get overwhelmed. Introduce each new person once your pet has had a chance to settle down.

You want to give your pet plenty of time to adjust, but one thing you don’t want to put off is training. Start house training and teaching basic commands right away. Consistency is key to success, and give your new friend plenty of rewards for good behavior. Small training treats make excellent rewards, along with lots of praise and affection.

You probably already know that adopting a pet isn’t as simple as walking into a shelter and walking out with a new furry family member. This is a big change for you and your pet, so don’t worry if it takes some time. In the end, your pet will bring so much joy to your home that you’ll wonder how you ever lived without them!

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