The decision to adopt a pet should never be taken lightly. Whether it’s your first, your second, or perhaps even your third pet, the questions you need to ask yourself and the preparations you should have in place remain the same. “With animal shelters open for adoptions [adoptions weren’t allowed on levels 4 and 5 of lockdown] and many people staying at home for the foreseeable future, if you’ve been thinking about adopting a pet, now is as good a time as any. However, there is a lot that needs to be considered before making the decision to adopt,” explains David Roache, Managing Director of dotsure.co.za.
Commitment – Puppies and kittens grow up to become dogs and cats, so if you’re only looking to adopt for the cute factor then stop right there. Adopting a pet is a big commitment. Cats can live up to 15 to 20 years and, depending on the breed, a dog can live an average of 10 to 15 years. So, make sure everyone involved in the care of your new pet is on board for the long haul. Puppies and kittens will take up plenty of your time, especially in the early days, so if you’re too stressed or focussed on a big project at work, then perhaps wait until you have more control over your schedule before visiting the animal shelter. It’s important to remember that a pet is for life and, in this case, not just for self-isolation.
Personality trumps cute – Love at first sight may not always apply when it comes to choosing the right pet for your family. It’s important to focus on the character traits that are going to make this adoption work. It’s the difference between a very energetic dog who’ll want to go on daily runs or one who’ll be satisfied with shorter, slower walks, as long as he can sleep on your lap while you watch TV on the couch. Figuring out first how a pet will fit into your life will help you make the smart adoption choice. Shelter staff will know many of the pets’ personality traits and will be able to assist you with your decision, especially if the pet is older and has been at the shelter for a longer period.
Training – If you’re adopting a puppy, kitten or even one of the shelter’s older pets, you’re in for some training no matter what. Whether it’s teaching your new pet which areas of the house are off-limits, getting used to a leash or where the litter box is, it will take some time, so be ready to start training from day one. Patience and perseverance are important and will lead to a loving and rewarding relationship.
Spring clean and stock up – Before any new paws touch your floor make sure you’ve hidden any loose wires, put away small items that can be easily swallowed and moved any house plants out of reach that may upset your new family member’s stomach. Make sure you’ve got toys, food and water bowls, a collar, a leash and a bed ready for when your new pet arrives. A comfortable, warm, fully stocked environment with all your new pet’s necessities will help make the transition an easy one for both of you.
Neutering and spaying – Dogs and cats can be sterilised as early as eight weeks of age however, most pets are sterilised between four and six months. If your pet hasn’t been sterilised upon adoption, the shelter will give you the correct paperwork for sterilisation to take place when the time comes, and you’ll have to provide proof to the shelter upon completion of the procedure.
The best thing you can do for your pet’s health is to have him or her sterilised. Some of the benefits include decreased aggression and a lower risk of mammary and ovarian cancer in females.
ID tag and microchip – Make sure your newly adopted pet is kitted with an ID tag so should he ever get lost, you’ll be contacted. Microchips are the best assurance for identification, especially when it comes to cats who don’t tend to wear collars. Remember to update your contact information with the microchip company if your details change.
Pet insurance – Our lives are so stressful as it is, so why let rising vet bills become a pet hate? Pet insurance gives you peace of mind, should something happen to your pet. Pet insurance isn’t just a ‘nice to have’ but a necessity in today’s tough times.
Introducing your new pet to other furry family members – If you already have pets at home, you are going to need to pay careful attention when introducing someone new to the fold. If possible, even before bringing your new pet into the house, rather find a neutral spot to make introductions. An outdoor space with enough room for cats to roam or for dogs to be on a leash is a good option. If both your established and new pets’ body language is good and there is no sign of aggression after a significant period of sussing each other out time, then you can bring your new pet into the house. However, they will still need to acclimatise to each other, so it’s important to remember to provide each pet with their own bed, introduce toys slowly, separate your pets when you’re out and most importantly, be patient.
Someone who knows all about the importance of pet adoptions is Carren Nickloes from the Animal Anti-Cruelty League (AACL). While Nickloes explains there’s been a noticeable rise in the number of people looking to adopt, they are currently only open on an appointment basis to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19. “At the beginning of lockdown, we were inundated with stray pets, pet parents dropping their fur babies off with us as they couldn’t afford to care for them, and emergency situations. While we do not see this slowing down anytime soon, we’ve started community feeding schemes specifically for those who can’t afford to feed their pets, but who don’t want to give them up. Pets make up an important part of the family unit, and we’ll do whatever we can to keep a family together.”
Roache explains that shutting down shelter adoptions during the higher levels of lockdown had a profoundly devastating effect. “It’s a desperate situation. We know that many animal shelters rely solely on public donations and on the money they receive from adoptions. Taking away shelters’ ability to facilitate adoptions saw many around the country take a huge knock, some even having to close their doors.”
As the well-being of all animals is top of mind for dotsure.co.za, they stepped up, with the utmost of urgency, and donated R300,000 to the AACL in April. With lockdown having gone on a lot longer than any of us expected, and shelter expenses piling up, they’ve now donated a further R150,000 with R100,000 going to AACL Johannesburg and R50,000 going to AACL Cape Town.
“This donation is huge for us and is going to dramatically assist us to continue to care for the health and welfare of animals, specifically for those in our hospitals. We encourage anyone looking to bring a little joy into their lives during these uncertain times to make an appointment with us,” adds Nickloes.