Are You Ready to Add a Pet to the Family?

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Oct 15, 2023

Are You Ready to Add a Pet to the Family?

Here are a few things to consider before you add a furry new member to your family. Adding a new cat or dog to the family is something all children dream of. Once you deem your kiddo responsible

Here are a few things to consider before you add a furry new member to your family.

Adding a new cat or dog to the family is something all children dream of. Once you deem your kiddo responsible enough to take care of a pet, there are still a few things to consider before you head to the pet store.

Is your family ready for a new furry friend?

While it can be hard to look beyond the cuteness in the heat of the moment, families should make sure they can commit to what it means to have a pet long term, including medical costs, training and busy, changing family schedules, says Emily Klehm, CEO of the South Suburban Humaen Society and chair of the Chicagoland Lifesaving Coalition, a consortium of animal welfare organizations in the Chicago area.

“Some folks expect a dog in a box. They just want to unbox their new pet and have it be perfect,” she says. That’s rarely the case; pets need to get comfortable with their new family and the family needs time to understand their new family member’s evolving personality, she says.

Her best advice: Do the research to understand what it means to add a pet to your life, then give the new pet time to adjust.

It also helps to consider your family’s lifestyle and how a new pet will fit into that lifestyle, Klehm says. Active breeds of dogs are good if families are outside a lot, but if your life is sedentary or spent mainly inside, a border collie or working breed is not going to be a good fit.

Don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions at the shelter, she says. For those on the fence about whether a pet works in their lives, Klehm suggests looking for a pet in foster care instead of a shelter because the foster family can provide so much more information about their behavior in a home setting.

We checked in with Sydney Bartson Queen, animal behavior counselor, of the ASPCA Behavioral Sciences Team, for tips to keep pets happy as they acclimate to family life.

Queen says “your new dog or cat may be left confused and lonely once everyone is rushing out the door instead of spending time at home. While you and your family are home [on summer vacation or on weekends], start to prepare your pet now and designate time for them to spend enjoyable time alone throughout the day.”

She suggests families start by taking a walk or doing yard work without your pet. Start small and gradually increase the time you are apart from them.

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