5 Myths About Shelter Pets Debunked

Myth: Cats in shelters are sick or have behavior issues.

Reality: The standards of care for cats in shelters are very high. “Shelters practicing good shelter medicine screen for diseases, prevent the spread of infectious diseases through proactive preventive care, and provide positive behavioral support and enrichment,” says Dr. Elizabeth Berliner, a director of shelter medicine at Cornell University's College of Veterinary Medicine. “Additionally, shelters are saving cats with treatable conditions, which can involve managing the cat through an illness and then providing the adopter with a cat who has a resolved or manageable condition.” Your new kitty is also more likely to be up to date on vaccinations and already spayed or neutered, and she may even have had her personality charted during her stay in the shelter — so there should be relatively few surprises when you get her home.

Myth: The shelter won’t have the type or breed of animal I’m looking for.

Truth: You can find all kinds of great animals at shelters: puppies, kittens, adult animals, purebred dogs and cats, rabbits and a range of other exotic species. Most shelters have websites where you can see at a glance what animals they have. You can also visit www.adoptapet.com to see descriptions of the pets available in your local animal care centers. This can save you time and energy if you’re looking for a specific breed, a pet of a certain size or age or one with a particular coat type or color.

And don't assume that all dogs and cats in the shelter are mixed breeds. According to several studies, between 15 and 25 percent of animals found at shelters are purebreds. “Owners of purebreds can experience personal, financial or medical hardships that can cause them to give up their dogs,” Gilbreath says. “If your heart is set on adopting a purebred, visit animal care centers regularly, as specific breeds can sometimes be in high demand.”

Just because a shelter doesn’t have the kind of pet you’re looking for doesn’t mean it can’t help you find one. Many shelters have transfer programs that allow them to move animals in high demand in one area from shelters in areas that have too many of them. Transfer programs help reduce pressure on overpopulated facilities and ensure that shelters can provide a good variety of animals of different ages, breeds and species. For instance, Arizona exports an abundance of Chihuahuas to areas of the country where they are less common and highly sought after. Pedersen says that HSBV is one of the few shelters that brings kittens in, because the Boulder community has done such a good job of spaying and neutering cats. “If we don’t have any kittens being fostered or in the adoption center, we can reach out to communities that maybe have higher populations,” she says.

The bottom line is this: Don’t be afraid to adopt a shelter animal. The love you can share with even an older pet is amazing. I’ve witnessed the incredible bond that is formed when somebody chooses a pet from a shelter both in my own life and in my veterinary practice. It’s strong, resilient and lasting.

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