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When adding an animal member to your family, there are a myriad of choices and considerations to ponder. What species is the best choice? What resources are required, and what are the costs involved in caring appropriately for that animal? Are you willing to commit to the animal for the entirety of its life? Remember, rats live 2.5 years, while some birds have lifespans of 60 to 80 years. Does the pet fit in with the entire family? What is the age of the animal? Should you adopt from a shelter or rescue, or should you purchase an animal from a breeder? How was the animal treated before you acquired it? Was it in an institutional setting or in a home? The questions may seem endless, but they’re important to consider for everyone’s benefit.

Many fabulous pets are available through rescue and worthwhile organizations. Considering we still euthanize millions of perfectly adoptable pets each year in shelters, adoption makes moral and ethical sense. If you do not want to go through the time commitment, work and destruction of training a puppy or kitten, the adult animals can have more predictable temperaments as well. And they are not adopted as quickly as the younger ones. The number of costly exotic birds, which end up in rescue because their longevity was not considered, is sizable. The Georgia House Rabbit Society finds new homes for wonderful bunnies and is a great source of trustworthy information on care.

When adopting a pet, remember the answers to your initial questions. It is important to pick a pet that suits your lifestyle, abilities and expectation. The cuteness factor can sway all of us into impulsive choices. Find a pet with which you have chemistry and attraction. I strongly recommend spending significant time with the animal. Observe its behavior. How does it behave in different situations, like when it is removed from familiar settings or is exposed to other animals? Stress can influence animal behavior greatly. Expose the potential adoptee to all family members, especially children. I personally advise, if possible, bringing an animal home for a trial run. In this case, understand there may be a period of formal introduction and acclimation, which can influence behavior, especially with other animal family members.

Purchasing a pet requires all of the considerations of adoption. Research the breed, but do not believe everything on the Internet. I very much recommend talking to your veterinarian and to people other than the breeder, who have experience with the breed. Make sure the breeder is screening for important diseases in a given breed and that parents have been certified free of defects. A delightful couple I know spent many hundreds of dollars more for a Golden Retriever puppy than I did. My breeder automatically gave me multiple certifications (e.g. OFA, PennHip, CERF) on both parents. She would have furnished another generation back if I had asked. By eight weeks of age, my puppy had already had nail trims, baths, lots of human contact, was virtually house-trained and lived in an idyllic situation. Their puppy has no certification at all, was shipped from the Midwest and placed in a cage in a retail setting until 12 weeks of age. I searched for the “breeder” listed on their registration papers and could not locate a way to contact them.

The circumstances of early life can influence social behavior and fear. This is especially true in cats, which need to be handled starting at three weeks of age. How kittens are interacted with when young is important.

I recommend meeting the breeder at the facility where the puppy was or will be born. It is important to meet both parents or, at very least, the female. If someone suggests meeting you with a single kitten or puppy in a parking lot, be cautious. Watching interactions with litter mates, mom and the breeder may help you select the appropriate pet for you. All of this being said, many of us have been susceptible to “expensive rescue” where we see an animal in bad circumstances and we purchase them to prevent suffering.

Loving Hands Animal Clinic can furnish past Pet Care University handouts on subjects like behavior, nutrition and other pet care topics. See Appen News or Loving Hands Animal Clinic’s Facebook and social media pages for more information on our next Pet Care University offering on pet dental health with Dr. Emily McManus on Saturday, Feb. 16.

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