You’ve decided to adopt a pet… now what?!

The anticipation is the best feeling in the world. You’ve decided to adopt a friend, you may even have decided which critter you’re going to add to your family!

Guardianship isn’t something to be entered into lightly. You’ll be solely responsible for your new friend’s every need and that’s a big deal. We don’t want to put a damper on your excitement! So we’ve put together some questions that will help you get some of the big decisions under your belt. You’ll have more time for snuggles if you get this done first!

Things to Consider

Are you ready for a new pet? There are a lot of different things you should consider before adopting your new friend! Try and answer the following questions and note the points below. Responsible pet guardianship means being willing to do everything in your power for your new friend for their entire lifetime.

Spay/neuter your pet. Millions of animals are euthanized in Canada every year. While it’s a sad fact, there is something that people can do about it. Spaying and neutering pets can reduce the number of pets needing homes! Many animals that come from shelters /rescues are already fixed, but make sure that you are willing to pay for this procedure if they are not. Spaying and neutering can also reduce the risk of reproductive cancers, aggression, territorial marking and noise (howling, barking and more!). Many small animals can (and some would argue should) also have this procedure.

Veterinarian. Do you have a veterinarian? Are you willing to pay medical expenses for your new pet, for the rest of their life? Before you adopt you should make sure you have a veterinarian that looks after your type of pet (some vets do not look at small animals, reptiles or birds). Find a vet that you trust, that’s close by and also ensure you know where you can take your pet after hours in an emergency. Veterinary costs can be expensive! Make sure you know how much food, annual check ups and unexpected emergencies could cost you. Small pets require equally expensive and regular veterinary care as cats and dogs, so make sure you take this into consideration.

The BC SPCA has an estimate of the one time and yearly costs for several different animals. Please note these are very conservative estimates and may vary province to province. Check it out.

Pet Insurance. It’s not for everyone but it’s something to consider. Currently in Canada only dogs and cats can be insured. If your pet does not have any pre-existing conditions and you are able to afford a monthly or yearly payment, insurance can definitely help if an accident or illness occurs.

The right pet for your family. Are you short on space or time? Do you have kids, other pets or travel a lot? Before choosing a pet, you need to determine how much time that pet will require, how much space they need and whether they will get along with your kids/pets. If you are renting, make sure your landlord will accept pets. Some breeds or even species may not work with your particular family (+ by-laws), or it might just mean searching for the right individual animal. Consider where you are putting your new pet (if they’re a small animal, ensure their space will not be in direct sunlight or in a draft etc.). If your children will be taking care of the pet, understand that they might lose interest. You are responsible for taking care of the pet if this happens. You are also responsible if your child goes off to college. If you travel, make sure you have a friend or pet sitter who will be able and knowledgeable enough to take care of your pet.

The right care for your pet. Do your research! Know what type of food, housing, enrichment and care your new pet will need. Every species is different and may require a lot more than you’re expecting. Try and read books and contact organizations that can help you find the information you need. How long will your new pet live? Make sure that you will be able to provide care for their entire lifetime.
List of questions to ask yourself:

1. Are you willing to spay/neuter your new pet?

2. Are you willing to prepare your house for your new pet (covering electrical cords, stair accesses etc.)?

3. Are/could you be moving soon?

4. Will you have enough time for your new pet?

5. Who will look after your pet when you travel, will you be able to bring your pet with you?

6. Would you be willing to go to training classes?

7. What happens if your new pet is badly behaved?

8. Do you know how to deal with bad behaviour; will you be willing to buy products to divert scratching in cats or chewing in small animals?

9. Do you know your community’s by-laws for pets (how many pets per household, licensing etc.)?

10. Do you know how long your new pet will live?

11. Can you provide care for its entire life?

12. What food do they eat, how much do they need each day and how much will it cost per week?

13. How much space do they need?

14. What type of housing do they require?

15. What type of exercise and attention do they require?

16. Do you know what products to get at the pet store? Just because it has a picture of your pet on the package or is sold in a pet store doesn’t mean it’s safe or healthy.

17. Can you take care of the pet if your child loses interest?

18. Are you using this pet as a learning tool or to get your child to be responsible? You are ultimately responsible no matter your child’s behaviour and should take that into consideration.

19. Would pet insurance be something that would help out with your pet’s expenses?

20. Will you be able to pay veterinary expenses?

21. Does your veterinarian have convenient payment plans?

22. Does your veterinarian take that species? Do you need to find a specialist?

23. Where would you take your pet in an emergency?

24. If you will be welcoming a new baby or pet, what will happen to this pet?

25. Where will your new pet spend most of its time?

26. Who will be looking after the pet most of the time?

27. Who will make decisions and be responsible for the costs of your new pet?

28. If you are sharing ownership, what will happen to your pet in case of a disagreement or split?

29. What happens if natural disaster should strike (find out if shelters will take in pets or where you could take your pet in such an emergency)?

30. If you are unable to keep your pet, will you take it back to the shelter/rescue you adopted it from?

31. What if you or a loved one is allergic?

32. What if your new pet doesn’t getting along with your existing pets or vice versa?

33. Are you willing to make plans for your pet in the event that you should die before them? Find out how to include your pet in your will or if friend/family would be willing to take them in.

Kimberley Richards

Project Director

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