Adopting an Adult Cat or Dog

Senior Dog

Why adopt an adult cat or dog?First, they’re kittens and puppies. They wiggle and totter and fall in love with us as we fall for them. Kittens and puppies remind us what it’s like to start on life’s great adventures, but they require a lot more work than adult cats and dogs do. They make messes on your floor, they scratch and chew on your furniture, and they pull at your drapes and your patience.

Grown dogs and cats have already Been There, Done That. They understand the basic rules of life, and they know that you’ll teach them whatever else they need to learn. They’ve already developed into what they were going to be, but they still have plenty of love to give. Puppies and kittens can almost always find a home. Older dogs and cats often can’t. If you adopt an adult dog or cat, you’ve not only bypassed the puppy and kitten accidents and training, but you’ve got yourself an appreciative, mature companion. As the bond between you grows, you’ll remember that you helped give your pet new life.

Where to find a dog or cat to adopt

  • Newspaper classifieds often have ads for older animals that need new homes. If you visit pets in their current homes, you’ll get a good idea of their temperament and how they interact with different people. You’ll also be able to discuss their needs with the people who know them best.
  • Animal shelters such as the SPCA have lots of grown dogs and cats waiting for adoption. While it’s more difficult to assess their personalities when they’re in an unfamiliar setting, you’ll see a variety of animals to choose from.
  • Animal rescue organizations spend time matching pets with adopters. The rescue volunteers will be able to describe the animals’ personalities and what type of home is the most suitable for each cat and dog. They’ll probably have a questionnaire for you to fill out, and they may ask for references. Some dog rescue organizations take in all breeds and mixed breeds, while breed rescue organizations rescue purebred dogs of a specific breed. Cat rescue organizations are sometimes breed specific, but the majority rescue all kinds of cats. Include a breed name in your searches if you’re looking for a specific breed.

How to choose an adult dog or cat to adopt

Purebred dogs and cats

If you plan to adopt a purebred pet, research the breed as you would do when adopting a puppy or kitten. Consider the breed’s needs for space, companionship, and other breed-specific requirements. Some dogs require professional grooming, for example. Others may be too aggressive for children, or need more exercise than you can provide. Cat breeds also each have their own characteristics.

All varieties of dogs and cats

When you meet dogs and cats that are available to be adopted, learn their history if possible. Some animals prefer to be “only” pets, while others enjoy the company of other animals in their home. Why was the cat or dog given up for adoption? Does the animal have health problems that require extra medical care or special food? Consider both your budget and your available time to take care of the pet’s needs.

Cat and dog behavior

Observe a potential adoptee dog’s behavior with different people — male and female, and adults and children, including household members if possible. Does the dog appear to be friendly, aggressive, dominant, submissive, fearful? These traits may or may not be problems, depending on your experience with dogs and your situation. See if you can take the dog for a walk to get to know him in a different environment, more than once if possible. Cats are happiest when they’re in a place they consider home, so they tend to be more stressed when they’re in a shelter. Give cats time to respond to you, and ask their caregivers about their personalities. Some are more independent and aloof, some crave affection, some tend to be playful, and some are more loyal or easygoing than others.

Who to bring home

The goal is to find a cat or dog that can become part of your family. Research different breeds if you’re looking for a purebred animal, spend time with animals you’re considering adopting, and learn the animals’ backgrounds. Having to return an animal to a shelter or rescue is hard on the animal and on the family. A well-considered adoption, on the other hand, can be the beginning of a bond that grows for years.