With many stuck at home because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, some may be considering adopting a furry friend to keep loneliness at bay.
Pet companionship offers several health benefits. According to the National Center for Health Science Research, studies show that people with pets generally had lower heart rates and stress levels than people did not have pets.
Pets are also thought to provide benefits to mental health, especially among people who suffer from anxiety and isolation.
But there are many important questions to consider before adopting a new friend, Veterinarian Katy Byrd says.
Byrd is an associate veterinarian at the Clovis Pet Hospital. She dedicates most of her time to animals, as she also works as a veterinarian at the Stonecliff Animal Rescue in Lemoore and is a relief veterinarian at the HOPE Animal Foundation.
The Roundup spoke to Byrd to learn what you need to know before adopting a new pet.
Before you even consider anything pet-related, Byrd said to make sure that you are capable of taking care of a pet. This means making sure you have the resources, time and space necessary to care for an animal.
“There is a lot of education and time that goes into taking care of a pet. You need to make sure you have the time to train it and the resources to feed and house it,” Byrd said.
It is helpful to make a mental checklist of the things you want to know before adopting a pet. First, you should ask yourself what you want in a dog or cat.
“Know what kind of companion fits your needs. Do you need a high-energy dog that you want to go running with or do you need a couch potato? Do you need something sturdy but gentle enough to be around young children? I would really encourage people to do their research on breeds and ages for dogs,” Byrd said.
Age and breed have major impacts on a pet’s behavior and needs. It is more difficult to change the behavior of older animals, for example, but many older animals are already trained and don’t come with any surprises.
“Adults are already house trained, already trained in other ways, and they are calmer. You know what size you are going to get and what breed it is. Sometimes with puppies it can be difficult to tell what the breed is,” Byrd said.
Once you know what kind of pet you are looking for, it is time to think about where you will get your new pal from.
People who want to rescue a pet can choose from a primary facility, such as Clovis Animal and Receiving Care Center or Miss Winkles (both are temporarily closed due to coronavirus concerns), or a secondary animal rescue organization, which includes local nonprofits such as Animal Rescue of Fresno.
Avoid getting a pet from a breeder, as that contributes to Fresno’s ongoing animal overpopulation epidemic.
“We are in a situation where we discourage people from breeding new animals. When you get an animal, especially from a private party that has been purposefully bred, you are rewarding them for introducing more animals into our already overpopulated animal state,” Byrd said.
Rescuing animals also comes with several advantages that breeders do not offer. Rescued pets are already spayed or neutered and already have the necessary vaccines, which saves you money.
“A rescue is already spayed or neutered, vaccinated and microchipped so you save a lot of money on the front end of getting a pet,” Byrd said.
When you adopt, remember your mental checklist of questions and arrange for the pet provider to answer them. These questions can include whether the animal you are adopting is good with other dogs, cats, or with children.
Byrd said it is a good idea to ask about the pet’s medical history and if the animal was a stray or owner relinquished.
“With owner relinquished animals, an owner is able to tell the staff a lot more about them when they are relinquishing their animal, things like whether it get along with other pets or if it’s house trained,” she said. “The staff probably won’t have that information if it is a stray.”
Byrd said that the more agencies an animal goes through, the higher the likelihood that it has suffered from psychological trauma.
“In my opinion, the more agencies an animal has been through, they may be more mentally traumatized. The reason is every time an animal gets moved from where it is, it essentially gets its heart broken because the only people that the animal knows are now not its caregivers,” Byrd said.
If you do adopt a pet who has experienced trauma, remember to be patient and regulate their day.
“They tend to need a lot more positive reinforcement, especially at first,” Byrd said. “Try to make everything scheduled and regular in terms of meal time, going out to use the bathroom, housing arrangements. Make sure you don’t get an animal at a chaotic time like Christmas where people are coming and going.”
Byrd said she discourages people from adopting pets that are extremely fearful around other animals and staff at the shelter, as fear often manifests as aggression.
“If they are really shy or reserved around the other animals or staff, that sometimes means that their personality is going to be much more fearful and those animals tend to be more difficult to work with because most aggression arises from fear,” she said.
Once you choose your new friend and bring it home, Byrd said that it usually takes a little more than a week for pets to settle into its new environment.
“There have been studies done by the veterinary community that say that around day eight, an animal will start to general interact with the family in a more normal way, whether it’s a pet that seemed reserved and now is high energy, or one that was fearful and now is getting more affectionate,” Byrd said.” So it is over a week until you can expect for them to have as they normally would.”
Rescuing an animal can be beneficial for both you and your new friend. Follow Byrd’s advice and perhaps, years from now, you will look at your cat or dog, now an old friend, and say, “Who rescued who?”