Pet Connection

Pet Adoptions

Shelter or rescue group staff or volunteers can have valuable insights into pets available for adoption

By Kim Campbell Thornton

Andrews McMeel Syndication

When you’re ready for a dog or cat to come into your life, you want him now, right? You look online or go to the shelter, walk through once or twice, and, hey, that one in the third cage to the right looks like what you had in mind. But is he really the right choice? Adoption counselors and volunteers at shelters and rescue groups say people don’t ask enough questions about the pets they’re interested in, leading to mismatches in personality and lifestyle.

“I do Abyssinian rescue,” says Linda Kay Hardie of Reno, Nevada. “Some people are attracted to the beautiful looks of the Aby, but they don’t realize the high activity level and intelligence of the cat. One of my Abys came to me after he was returned to the breeder by someone who didn’t know that Abys are high energy and need a lot of attention.”

Ask about health needs, especially if you are interested in a particular breed. Veterinary care isn’t one-size-fits-all. Nicole Morrison of Houston, who was rescue coordinator for her local cavalier King Charles spaniel club, says cavaliers, for instance, need regular teeth brushing and dental cleanings, as well as weight control to prevent obesity. A breed rescue coordinator should be able to fill you in on specific needs of the breed and an individual dog or cat.

Think about your lifestyle and how you enjoy spending time with a dog or cat. More important, ask what the animal you’re considering likes to do and whether that matches your activity level and what you’re looking for in a companion animal.

Common questions potential adopters ask include “Is she housetrained?” “How much does he shed?” “Is she a lap cat?”

Those are good questions, but be aware that appropriate house manners or desired behaviors such as lap sitting may not appear until the pet is comfortable in new surroundings. Maryanne Dell, one of the founders of Shamrock Rescue Foundation in Orange County, California, says even well-trained animals may have accidents in a new home because environmental changes can be upsetting. It’s important to give them time to settle in and ensure that they don’t have opportunities to make mistakes.

“Many rescue pets have been turned over by their owners because they are old or have medical or behavioral issues,” Dell says. “Others are saved from kill shelters by rescues for the same reasons. A good rescue will disclose any and all of the issues that might affect an animal and how he may act in the new home.”

Former shelter adoption counselor Sharon Melnyk of Berkeley, California, suggests some more in-depth questions to ask:

-- Is this animal well-socialized or accustomed to interacting with people?

-- How does this animal react to children?

-- Does this animal get along with other cats or dogs?

-- Are there any dogs or cats I should consider who haven’t caught my attention?

Consider behavior and personality, not just looks. Melnyk says it can be heartbreaking to see sometimes shy or reserved cats pawing at people as if trying to get their attention, only to be ignored. Even if a particular animal isn’t what you had in mind, give him a look. You may find a friend for life.

Laura Anne Gilman of Kenmore, Washington, recalls going to a shelter with the idea that she wanted a black kitten. A large orange adult cat reached out to grab her arm both times she walked by. She stopped to see him, and he snuggled his face into her neck. She and Boomer have been together for 15 years now.


Is it OK to

bathe cat?

Q: My cat is good about grooming herself, but she spends so much time on my furniture, especially my bed, that I’d like to bathe her weekly. Is that a good idea?

A: I know this will be surprising to many people, but it makes sense to bathe a cat regularly, even one who spends all her time indoors. There are several good reasons for doing so.

The first is that it benefits people who are allergic to cats. As you know, cats bathe themselves with their tongues, and saliva carries allergens. Regular bathing helps to remove not only the remnants of saliva from fur but also dander -- dead skin flakes that also carry allergens. That makes the presence of cats more tolerable to humans with allergies.

Senior cats may need baths to help them stay clean. Often, they have put on some pounds over the years or developed arthritis, both of which can make it difficult for them to groom themselves thoroughly.

Cats who go outdoors may get into sticky stuff, such as chewing gum, tree sap or tar. A bath is also important if a cat has been exposed to a toxic substance. Often, a bath is the most effective way to remove harmful chemicals from the coat. Cats with skin conditions may require medicated baths.

Finally, as you noted, cats spend a lot of time on our furniture. If you don’t want it to become “fur”-niture, brushing and bathing regularly will remove dead hair so it doesn’t fall off the cat and onto your belongings.

I always recommend that people with new kittens accustom them to baths and other grooming from the beginning. If you get them used to it at an early age on a regular schedule, you’ll have a sweeter smelling cat and a cleaner home. -- Dr. Marty Becker

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Senior dog earns

advanced sniffing title

-- A Chinese crested named Frasier became the first of his breed to earn an Elite title from the National Association of Canine Scent Work. Frasier was two weeks shy of his 16th birthday when he achieved the coveted title, earned by passing an NACSW NW3 title level three times. “I am over-the-moon-and-back proud of Frasier, who searched in high-90s heat and stayed focused all day,” says handler Judy Peterson of Fullerton, California. “It’s a day I won’t forget.”

-- Bringing home a new pet? Here are five important items to purchase beforehand: a flat collar with an identification tag engraved with your name and at least two phone numbers where you can be reached; a carrier or crate that can be left out in your home so your pet becomes used to hanging out in it and will be comfortable riding in it for car trips or other travel experiences; pet health insurance to cover unexpected or expensive vet visits; an exercise pen or baby gate to help contain your new puppy or kitten in safe areas until his house manners are solid; and weighted stainless steel or ceramic food and water bowls to prevent spills.

-- If you compete with your dog in sports such as agility, obedience or nose work trials, you may face the issue of keeping him cool in the car while he waits for his turn in the ring. The following items can help you both chill out: a spray bottle filled with water for misting him (be sure to keep the belly, paws and “underarms” cool); a reflective car cover or vehicle umbrella; a cooling pad for your dog to lie on or a cooling coat for him to wear; and water to help him stay hydrated. -- Dr. Marty Becker, Kim Campbell Thornton and Mikkel Becker


Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet-care experts headed by "The Dr. Oz Show" veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and award-winning journalist Kim Campbell Thornton. They are affiliated with and are the authors of many best-selling pet-care books. Joining them is dog trainer and behavior consultant Mikkel Becker. Dr. Becker can be found at or on Twitter at DrMartyBecker. Kim Campbell Thornton is at and on Twitter at kkcthornton. Mikkel Becker is at and on Twitter at MikkelBecker.

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