Bringing a new pet into your home is a huge but rewarding upheaval. You’re welcoming a new family member, one who requires food, attention, care and time. But we can’t just wedge a new cat or dog into our already packed schedules and hope for the best, assuming they’ll adjust to our lifestyles in an instant.
In fact, making sure we carefully consider and integrate new pets into our lives is critical if we want to help minimize the number of unwanted pets around the USA and take some pressure off overfilled shelters.
It’s devastating — and almost incomprehensible — to think just how many pets become victims of homelessness in the USA and around the world. Mars Petcare has just launched a State of Pet Homelessness Index to bring awareness to this overlooked issue. Up until this point, measuring the widespread impact of pet homelessness has been tricky. Data is patchy and it’s unclear how effective various initiatives aimed at curbing pet abandonment and homelessness have been.
With data from over 200 global and local sources, Mars Petcare’s Index gives a measure of pet homelessness at a point in time for 9 countries around the world, including the United States. The scale of the problem makes for grim reading: In the USA alone, there are nearly 48 million homeless dogs and cats, including 41 million street or stray cats, 1.3 million street or stray dogs and 5.4 million cats and dogs living in shelters.
If you’re considering a pet for your family, here are some factors to think about (and research intensely) ahead of becoming a new “pet parent.”
Finding Your Perfect Match
Financially, emotionally and practically, a pet is a big decision for an individual, couple or family. Just like falling for a charming face on its own isn’t the best way to choose a life partner, finding the right pet for you involves various considerations — even before you’ve brought your new family member home.
Everything from your previous pet-owning experience to the type of residence you live in (if you’re renting, have you triple-checked you’re allowed to have pets?) needs to be established before you even start thinking of breeds. Simply turning up and choosing the pet who looks the cutest isn’t a good strategy.
There are lots of resources for those looking for help when it comes to choosing a cat or a dog for your family, online and in person. If you’re looking to add a dog to your family, an online quiz at a site created by the Pedigree® brand will ask you questions about your home and lifestyle to suggest dog breeds that you might want to consider.
Shelters can be very useful for providing information on what breeds might suit your lifestyle, how to care for them and things to keep in mind while on your search for your perfect match. They’ll also give you an opportunity to see and interact with their rescue pets. Turnover tends to be quick so if you are in the market, visit shelters every few weeks to learn about different breeds and personality types.
Ahead of getting a pet, be prepared to ask tons of questions at the shelter. You’ll want to know how your future pet ended up there; what their background is; and what are their likes, dislikes and triggers. Similarly, you’ll be vetted by a shelter as a prospective pet owner. They’ll want to know the pet in their care is going to a happy home and whether they’ll have room to sleep, plenty of cuddles and attention, nutritious food, access to veterinary care and more.
You should be asking yourself countless questions before acquiring a pet, such as what length of time you can commit to exercising a dog every day and whether the breed of dog you like is suitable for your home and lifestyle. Knowing what you’re getting yourself into can help you prepare for a new pet’s arrival since all these factors can potentially impact your experience as a pet owner.
Adjusting Your Lifestyle For Your New Pet
Pets are life-changing. They provide unconditional love and companionship. We care for them but they also look after us as countless studies have illustrated the positive impact pets have on our physical and emotional health.
It’s naive to think that you can bring a new pet into your life and all will remain business as usual. Priorities adjust. The shape of your day needs to shift to accommodate your pet’s walks, cuddle sessions and vet visits. So before you bring your pet home, make sure that you make a plan for how you’ll accommodate them into your lifestyle: Will your work schedule need to change? Will someone be able to look after them if you’re away for a night? Are there any local dog walkers or pet sitters who could help you out when needed?
Initiatives like the Better Cities for Pets™ program, found in nearly 66 cities across North America, exist to make life easier for pet owners by improving communities for “pet parents” and their furry friends.
This includes everything from ensuring there’s a huge amount of green space for dogs to run around in to encouraging local businesses to be more pet-friendly and having warm, welcoming community shelters that help abandoned pets find their forever homes.
The initiative from Mars Petcare also supports shelters and animal welfare organizations with hundreds of thousands of dollars in grant support, plus an annual Adoption Weekend in partnership with Pedigree Foundation, which provided up to $100,000 in adoption fees for cats and dogs in participating shelters in Nashville and Kansas City in October 2021.
“At Mars Petcare, everything we do is in service of our purpose: A Better World for Pets. That means keeping pets and people together,” says Ikdeep Singh, president of Mars Pet Nutrition North America.
“By supporting pet adoption with Pedigree Foundation, making a more welcoming world for pets and pet parents with Better Cities for Pets™ and pioneering the new State of Pet Homelessness Index research, we are able to realize the world we want tomorrow — one where all pets are wanted, cared for and welcome.”
Tips For Raising Your New Pet
During your pet’s first few early morning bathroom trips, you might find yourself thinking that it’s almost like you’ve welcomed a new baby into your home and that’s because it kind of is! Those first few months after bringing your new pet home will be equal measures exciting and tiring as you both learn about one another, bond and start your training.
Training should take up a big chunk of time in the early weeks and months with a new dog or cat, and positive reinforcement techniques (rewarding for good behavior) is an expert-approved way to train your new animal. It might be worth investing in doggie training or obedience classes, especially if your dog’s past experiences cause them to be especially anxious or fearful.
Don’t be discouraged if it takes a bit of time for you to find your groove with your pet. In fact, community shelters can be useful when it comes to providing guidance to new pet owners. (They’ll often have resources ranging from behavioral tips to recommendations for local dog walkers.) Your shelter is likely to put on adoption events so you can meet other pet owners in your area, too.
Providing a loving home and establishing that long-lasting relationship with a cat or dog is an experience that can only be described as life-changing and life-enhancing. For more information on what you can do to help end the plight of pet homelessness in the USA and around the world, visit endpethomelessness.com.
State of Pet Homelessness Index data provided by Mars Petcare.