As animal lovers, we can’t get enough of our cuddly companions and with good reason: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, pet owners are more likely to have stronger immune systems, be fitter and have better mental health.
There are plenty of benefits to having an animal companion, especially during stressful times. But having a furry friend is also a big responsibility as pets need a lot of attention, care and love.
If you’ve been thinking about adding a furry (or feathery) friend to your family but don’t know where to start, here are some important advice from local animal welfare groups before you make that big decision.
Adopt, don’t shop!
That little puppy or kitten may look cute in the pet shop window, but if you are serious about adding an animal to your family, think about adopting one from a shelter. Many people think that because an animal is in a rescue shelter, they’re damaged, but that’s not the case.
Dr Siew Tuck Wah, president of Save Our Singapore Street Dogs, says: “There are many misconceptions about shelter animals. For example, some people think they are aggressive, have behavioural problems, and are sick with diseases. There’s also the misconception that they do not make good companions compared to pedigree breeds bought from breeding farms.
In reality, shelter animals can make great pets. Just like any other pet, shelter dogs and cats have their own unique personality. Therefore it is important to get to know the dog or cat, and find a pet which suits your lifestyle.”
Dr Jaipal Singh Gill, executive director of SPCA Singapore, explains that the biggest misunderstanding about shelter animals is that they make poor pets because they were given up by their previous caregivers.
“Many are often misunderstood and perhaps their fears and insecurities were not managed effectively in their previous homes. In some cases, their previous caregivers were simply unable to continue taking care of them. Animals end up in a shelter through no fault of their own. Given a chance, many of them would make amazing companions if provided with the right care, patience and a loving environment,” he says.
What you need to consider before adopting a pet
Thenuga Vijakumar, president of Cat Welfare Society, a local community cat advocacy group, says the most important factor is the family’s ability to provide for the animal for the anticipated duration of its life. “The family must be financially stable enough to provide good quality food, regular veterinary care and invest in toys and other stimulation for the cats’ lives (about 15 to 20 years indoors).”
Similarly, those looking to adopt dogs or other animal companions should consider not only the above points, but also whether their family are on board with the extra responsibility and commitment, and are willing to make lifestyle changes to accommodate their new family member.
“Pet care also extends to the way your family member or pet sitter treats your furkid, your pet’s special needs during their golden years, and whether you have plans to relocate,” says Dr Gill.
Thenuga agrees. “The family must consider their lifestyles and anticipated lifestyles in the future to ensure they have time to spend with the cat,” she says.
The pet adoption process
Of course, the adoption process varies depending on the shelter or charity. For SPCA Singapore, potential adopters must first book an appoint here to visit the animals. “Due to the pandemic, our shelter is closed for walk-ins until further notice. However, all animals looking for their forever homes will be posted on our website,” says Dr Gill.
He also adds that adopters must also be prepared to go through an interview or checks in their homes to ensure that the environment is suitable as a forever home.
At the Cat Welfare Society, which works with independent rescuers and fosterers, interested individuals can reach out to the rehomers featured on group’s platform for a discussion and to enquire about meeting with a potential companion. Like the SPCA, Thenuga says rehomers and fosterers will visit the homes of potential adopters to ensure that the cat “can move over safely”.
Alternatively, one can volunteer with the shelter or charity of their choice. “Activities such as dog walking at a great way to find out if you are comfortable interacting with dogs. Fostering is a fantastic way to volunteer to temporarily give a homeless dog a home until they find a permanent one,” says Dr Siew.