The Top Seven Questions You Need to Ask Before You Adopt a Pet

For many families, deciding to add a new animal family member is exciting, but it’s a common mistake to choose a pet based on looks alone. There are a lot of variables and questions to consider, especially if you’re interested in adopting a cat or dog from a shelter. About 7.9 million cats and dogs are surrendered to shelters each year. These animals are looking for their ”furever” families, so it’s important that you learn as much as you can about the dog or cat to ensure a good fit with your lifestyle. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of the top seven “need-to-knows” for any potential adopter:

1. What was their history before they came to the shelter?

This question will help you determine whether they were surrendered by their owner or found as a stray. If they were surrendered by their owner, it’s important to ask why. Either way, understanding their background may provide you with some context for any potential anxieties, fears or behaviors and give you a good idea about whether or not they’ll fit into your lifestyle. 

2. How do they interact with other cats, dogs, strangers or children?

This is a key question for any adopter who plans on socializing their cat or dog or has another pet or children at home. Bringing home a new family member is all about fit, so if you’re looking for an easy-going lap dog that loves kids, a dog that gets nervous around new people may not be the best choice. Having a good understanding of your new pet’s social behaviors can really help smooth the transition from shelter life to family life.  

3. What’s their medical history? Have they been spayed or neutered? Have they received their vaccines? When was their last checkup?

These are very important questions that all adopters should ask. Understanding the animal’s medical history will help you evaluate whether you can actually take care of the cat or dog. Some animals may have special needs that require extra care. If you can’t afford the extra care or the extra time, then that may not be the best pet for you. 

4. What food are they currently fed? 

This is good to know as it may relate to their veterinary records. Your new dog or cat may be on a special food because the shelter staff noticed some food or environmental sensitivities or the veterinarian prescribed a special diet because of a health condition. Knowing what food they’re currently on may give you some insight into their health status.

5. Do you offer any post-adoption support like obedience classes? 

Some shelters will offer obedience and training classes for all of their new adopters. Other rescues might put you in contact with the foster so you can ask specific questions about training and behavior. Some form of post-adoption support can be incredibly important, especially for first-time adopters. You’ll have a lot of questions, and having a partner that can answer them will smooth the process. 

6. What’s the adoption process like? Is there a trial period?

This question helps you as the adopter get a sense of how long the adoption process takes. Some shelters or rescues will send you home with your new family member as soon as they can! Others may take a little more time and give you a trial period first. Either option is a great way to gain a new family member—just make sure you pick the one that’s best for you and your new cat or dog.  

7. What would you want to know if you were me? 

The idea behind this question is to get the shelter, rescue or foster to talk about some of the details that they might not have thought to tell you. For example, this question might reveal that your new cat is afraid of loud noises and will hide whenever she hears one, or your dog will mark his territory anytime he’s in a new place. Oftentimes, this answer will reveal the fun personality quirks of your new pet or unearth some helpful training advice.

Visit Your Vet

Remember, as soon as you bring home a new four-legged family member, make sure to take them to your vet for a checkup. Your vet may be able to offer additional advice or insight to keep your new cat or dog in top condition. 

Remember, October is Adopt-a-Shelter-Dog Month! If you’re thinking about adopting a dog, check out your nearest shelter and bring this checklist with you. For more information on the latest in pet health and wellness, sign up for our newsletter.  

Resources: 
1. https://www.petfinder.com/blog/2012/03/questions_to_ask_before_adopti/
2. https://www.petcarerx.com/article/9-questions-to-ask-before-adopting-a-cat/923
3. http://www.vetstreet.com/learn/the-top-10-questions-you-should-ask-yourself-before-you-adopt-a-pet