5 Steps to adopting a pet

5 Steps to adopting a pet

So, you’re thinking of adopting a pet into your family? Here are the most important things to know before you bring home a new cat or dog.

As a new pet owner, the health and happiness of your furry friend is a priority – but it can sometimes be costly. That’s why Reality Access for Fedhealth members have free accident cover for their pets valued at up to R3 000 per household per year. You’ll be reimbursed up to 100% if your cat or dog is accidentally injured.

1. Do your research

Every dog and cat breed has a temperament. To ensure the happiness of your current household members and your new furry family member, it’s important to research the breed of dog or cat you want. Find out the amount of space, maintenance and attention it typically requires for a happy, healthy life. “It is important to match the animal’s needs with the household lifestyle,” says Michelle du Toit, who manages adoptions at the Cape of Good Hope Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA). “For example, a family that spends a lot of time watching TV would not be a good match for a border collie who needs constant stimulation and exercise.” Browse sites like this to find out about your preferred pet’s temperament, sociability, grooming needs and other characteristics.

2. Find a reputable animal shelter or rescue centre

“[A good animal shelter, like] the Cape of Good Hope SPCA, is one that uses a holistic approach that considers every possible factor in the best interest of the animal and the prospective household wanting to adopt,” says du Toit. Adopting a pet is a big responsibility, and the right adoption centre will have a thorough vetting process. The Cape of Good Hope SPCA has a qualified animal behaviourist who assesses and monitors behavioural changes and progress of its animals.

A reputable centre will often require a nominal donation when you adopt your cat or dog. This should not be confused with the often-exorbitant fee breeders charge for purebred dogs and cats.

3. Ready your home

Is your home secure so your dog or cat can fit safely and comfortably into their new surroundings? “Consider the perimeter and security requirements that would ensure your new pet’s safety and security,” says du Toit. Also decide on where your pet will eat and drink, and in the case of dogs, where they will sleep. “Designate those areas and agree with the whole family upfront,” adds du Toit. “Also be sure to have stimulating toys available for them, especially during their adjustment period.”

4. Be prepared for the adoption process

Adopting a pet from a shelter is not as simple as showing up at the shelter for the first time and walking away with your new pet the same day. Michelle explains what to expect:

  1. You’ll be required to complete an application form in person. Completing it in person allows experts at the shelter to match you perfectly to your new pup or kitty. Be prepared to pay a deposit (R100, in the case of adopting from the Cape of Good Hope SPCA), and bring a copy of your ID and proof of address.
  2. Next is the home inspection. “This is to check the environment to ensure adequate access to water, food and shelter, as well as to assess the condition of current pets,” says du Toit.
  3. The inspector will draft a report, which could include certain measures you need to take before your home is ready for your new pet. This could be that you need to fix a fence or buy an additional kennel, for example.
  4. If your adoption is approved, be prepared to visit the adoption centre with your family and any pet members of your household for a meet-and-greet with your new pet.

5. Brief everyone on the adjustment period

“People do not realise that animals have a rich emotional life,” says Nicole Nel, an animal behavioural therapist at the Cape of Good Hope SPCA. “They are capable of experiencing emotions such as fear, happiness, sadness and depression. Negative emotions can usually be attributed to owners not being able to meet the physical, mental and emotional needs of an animal.”

Moving from an adoption centre into your home involves plenty of change: in physical environment, the people surrounding them on a regular basis and the number and types of other animals they share their space with. This can elicit a stress response. “Every animal is an individual and responds differently to stress. You can expect them to react in some way to an unfamiliar environment,” says Nel. It’s key to comfort them at any given opportunity in the initial few days of them taking up residence in your home.

What’s the benefit of adopting from a shelter?
From a practical standpoint, some welfare organisations such as the Cape of Good Hope SPCA vaccinate, sterilise and microchip animals before they’re adopted. This means you can rest assured their health and safety has already been given a boost – and that you’ve been saved the cost of these procedures. Be sure to check if your chosen adoption centre has completed these processes, as not all welfare organisations offer them. Ever wondered what the true value of pet accident insurance is? Read this.

Most importantly, your new dog or cat has a second chance at life – and it’s all because you’ve taken the route of adopting from a rescue organisation.

Pet Accident Cover is one of several benefits Reality Access for Fedhealth members get to enjoy and help save money. Learn more here.

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