There’s nothing better than coming home from a long day at work to an excited, fluffy friend waiting for you at your front door. Just about everyone who has adopted an animal can attest to how uplifting living with a pet is. Adopting a pet adds life to your home, makes you healthier and enriches communities.
Welcoming a new pet into your daily routine may be intimidating at first, but Cathy Bissell of The BISSELL Pet Foundation — an organization that helps pets get out of shelters and into happy, healthy homes through adoption or foster care — has been around the block a couple of times when it comes to owning animals. She has some advice for welcoming them into your home and she’s here to make you into the best new pet owner ever.
Step One: Understand
Understanding the amount of love, attention and time owning a pet requires is an important first step when it comes to adoption.
“Bringing a pet into your home is a big decision, and it’s an important decision because it’s life-changing. Pets live much longer today, and they’re a commitment,” Bissell said.
Owning an animal means more than just finding a dogsitter for your weekend getaways and filling up their food and water bowls once a day.
“It’s important that when you adopt, you commit to that and understand what that means, which is taking care of it,” she said. “It means expenses. It means a lot of love and attention. In order to have a great pet, you have to really want to put time into the pet. That’s really important.”
Step Two: Why You Should Choose Adoption
OK. We get it. You’re ready to commit to owning a pet and can’t wait to spoil it with love. You have their name picked out, the collar engraved and know exactly what size and type of animal you and your home can handle. But now it’s time to decide how to purchase the perfect pet — should you adopt a pet in need or purchase one from a breeder? The answer should be obvious.
“Adopting takes a pet out of a shelter, out of a bad situation, and puts it into a home that’s loving and kind, unlike purchasing a pet from a store,” Bissell said. “Those pets need to find homes too, but unfortunately you continue that cycle of abuse. It’s important to adopt because it’s the only chance those pets have at a second chance in life.”
Adoption through your local shelters is the only way to give an animal another opportunity to live a happy and healthy life of snoozing in the sun and sneaking your dinner table scraps. The choice to adopt allows your pet to do more than just learn how to play fetch and cuddle on your couch — it stops animal abuse in its muddy tracks.
Step Three: Bringing Your Pet Home
Congratulations! You’ve finished the adoption process and are now the proud owner of a pet. Be aware that the transition between the shelter and the animal’s new home can be startling, though. During the first few days of owning your new fluffy friend, be careful to not cause too much commotion in your house.
“Take time and spend quiet time alone with your pets,” Bissell said. “Don’t invite friends over and don’t have a party. Take the time to make your pet feel comfortable, because they’re nervous. They were just in a home, then in a shelter, and now in another home, and they don’t know you.
“Allow them to get acclimated to their new place, to figure out who you are. If you’re kind and loving, they will respect you a little bit more.”
After some quiet time and TLC, you and your new pet will start to bond. Bonding with an animal provides an array of health benefits by reducing loneliness and increasing exercise.
“Even the American Heart Association has come out with something that says owning a dog is great for your heart, because you exercise more than you normally would,” Bissell said.
Making you physically and mentally healthier isn’t the only benefit of owning a pet, though. Animals also create better communities.
“When you have a community that loves pets, it speaks a lot about the community,” Bissell said. “When people are out with their pets, it speaks to who these people are. It shows that you live in a really warm and wonderful community. It’s family friendly, and pets are part of your family.
“Pets do so much for everyone. They’re life-changing.”
West Michigan Shelters
Kzoo Cat Cafe and Rescue
1128 W. Michigan Ave., Kalamazoo
Kalamazoo Humane Society
3661 Easy St., Kalamazoo
Humane Society of West Michigan
3077 Wilson Dr. NW, Grand Rapids
Brooknelle Pet Resort
4600 Knapp St. NE, Grand Rapids
Happy Cat Cafe
447 S. Division Ave., Grand Rapids
7205 Thornapple River Dr., Ada
5205 Airline Rd., Muskegon
Kent County Animal Shelter
740 Fuller Ave. NE, Grand Rapids
Kalamazoo County Animal Services
2500 Lake St., Kalamazoo