Adopt a Pet this Christmas
Nov 29, 2019
It will surely be one gift that keeps on giving.
This is Prince. Named after the legendary artist and entertainer. He is three years old and was adopted from the Great Plains SPCA Pet Adoption Center in August 2017. Every morning, after spending the night in bed and cuddled beneath a blanket, Prince stretches, has breakfast, and says hello to Lion (his canine big brother). His days consist of napping, eating, grooming, sunbathing, and making ample use of the litter box. When his human is away at work or school, he waits by the front door for her to come back and greets her with cuddles and meows as soon as she does. Before Prince was adopted, he spent a long time at the shelter, living in a sunroom with several other adoptable cats, waiting for a forever home.
When Prince was adopted, he was somewhat skinny. Even when animals are well cared for at the shelter, they’re often too stressed in their environment to eat. And because he lived with so many other cats, he also had a mild respiratory infection that cleared up shortly after he settled into his new home. Similarly, it didn’t take much time for him to warm up to his new environment and gain weight. Cuddly with humans from the start, he now had an entire apartment to himself and a dog (Lion) to boss around. Now, two years later, Prince is just as cuddly and affectionate as the day he came home, and he’s also a lot nicer to Lion. This is the ideal happy story for every animal that’s up for adoption. In the meantime, shelters play a crucial role in keeping pets fed, in good health, and off the streets.
Animal shelters house homeless animals and help reunite lost pets with their owners, and some provide veterinary services and training. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), 23 percent of all dogs and 31 percent of all cats living in American homes were adopted from a shelter. To find homes for all these animals, shelters rely on the generosity of the communities in which they reside.
In addition to monetary donations, volunteer time spent playing with and caring for the animals, as well as donated pet supplies, are essential to keeping animal shelters functioning. Supplies that shelters need the most include dog and cat food, kitty litter, chlorine bleach (cleanliness is important to all the animals’ health), bowls, litter boxes, and crates. For shelters that care for animals besides dogs and cats, such as horses, hay and feed are invaluable. It’s important to contact your local shelter and find out what their specific needs are, as some shelters also house reptiles, birds, and small mammals. In addition to money and supplies, volunteer time is essential to animal shelters. Volunteers are responsible for walking dogs, cleaning cages, socializing cats, feeding and watering, and doing administrative tasks. For high school students, this looks great on their resumes as they apply for colleges and future jobs. For everyone else, it’s a great way to spend time with animals, which the National Institute of Health (NIH) says could benefit human well-being by decreasing stress, blood pressure, and feelings of loneliness. Another way to get involved with a local animal shelter is by fostering pets. Foster pet parents provide a temporary home for animals while they await adoption, which helps to keep shelters from overcrowding.
Overall, one of the most important ways to help animal shelters is to get the animals already living at home spayed or neutered. Many shelters and organizations, such as Spay and Neuter Kansas City, offer this service at a reduced cost or for free. Spaying and neutering benefit the health of your pet by reducing certain behavioral problems and lowering the risk of some cancers, plus this is the biggest way to combat the pet overpopulation problem. There are currently more cats and dogs than there are people who can adopt them all, and this is partly why shelters remain full.
It’s important to know what you’re getting into before you adopt a pet. Many animals, perfectly loving and healthy, are surrendered to the shelter because they have gotten old or because their human is moving and cannot take the animal with them. Some people might surrender animals, specifically dogs, because they were adopted as cute puppies but grew into full-size adults. The adult dogs were never properly trained, so now the things that were cute when they were pups - such as chewing and jumping - are a nightmare to the owner who is ready to give them up. This is inhumane.
Keeping a pet is an investment in time and money. Besides basic care costs, animals of all ages and species get sick and have accidents that require major veterinary expenses. If finances are a concern but you still have it in your heart to rescue a cat or dog, it’s important to research organizations that might assist with their needs. Spay and Neuter Kansas City offers low-cost sterilization, vaccinations, and a pet food pantry. Additionally, talk to your vet about payment plans or a line of credit to cover unforeseen accidents or health complications. Financial strain is another reason animals are surrendered to shelters or outright abandoned on the streets.
Adopting an animal should be treated as a lifelong commitment, and it’s okay if it’s a commitment that you can’t make - as long as you realize this before you bring the animal home. It’s understandable that some people adopt with the best of intentions, but then life happens and the kindest thing to do is find the animal a new, loving home.
Pets are a wonderful addition to the family, and their presence and unconditional love can uplift a human on the heaviest of days. Once adopted, it doesn’t take long for an animal to become an integral part of the family. But for this to happen, local shelters need all the support they can get to keep animals off the streets and into warm, caring homes. Even if you’re not looking to adopt, find your local animal shelter and ask for ways you can help. Supporting animal shelters is just one of the ways we can enrich our communities and be of service. Former shelter animals like Prince thank you for it.