4 Common Myths About Shelter Pets Debunked

I know people sometimes have concerns about adopting pets from shelters. They may worry about how and why the animals ended up there. They might assume that the pets weren’t friendly, misbehaved or — in the case of cats — wouldn’t use the litterbox. Or they think animals at shelters are more likely to be sick, injured or otherwise unsuitable as pets.

By and large, though, that’s not the case. Some of the nicest pets come from shelters. Plenty of my patients were adopted from shelters — and so were two of my four dogs. Most animals who end up in shelters are healthy and well-adjusted. Often, pets who end up in shelters have been relinquished by owners who didn’t have the time, money or space to care for otherwise happy and healthy dogs and cats.

The love you can share with a pet is amazing, and you can form an incredible bond that’s resilient and lasting. Don’t be afraid to adopt a shelter animal — and don't fall for these four myths about shelter pets.

Shelter Pet Myths and Realities

two dogs in shelter kennel


Myth: There must be something wrong with a pet if he’s in a shelter.
Reality: More often than not, if a pet is in a shelter, something went wrong with the owner — not the animal. Pets are often given up, because their owners can no longer provide proper care. For instance, perhaps there was a financial hardship, a move to a new home, or a death or illness.


Myth: Shelter staffers don’t really get to know individual animals’ personalities, and there’s no way to ensure you’ll get the pet that’s right for you.
Reality: One of the top jobs for shelter staff is making the right match between people and pets. When possible, staffers gather information from former owners, and they also make their own observations as they interact with pets waiting to be adopted. Additionally, shelters are constantly looking at ways to create an easier adoption process and make sure there’s a good match between people and pets.

cat in a cage getting pets


Myth: Cats in shelters are sick or have behavioral issues.
Reality: The standards of care for cats in shelters are high. Shelters practicing good shelter medicine will screen for diseases and give pets preventive care, and provide positive behavioral support and enrichment for the cats — and dogs — in their care.


Myth: The shelter won’t have the breed or type of animal you’re looking for.
Reality: You can find all kinds of great animals at shelters, from young animals to adult animals to purebred cats and dogs and even a range of exotic species. Most shelters have websites, where you can see what animals they have. You can also visit adoptapet.com to see descriptions of the pets available in your local animal care centers.

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