Pick The Perfect Pet: Tips on bringing home a furry or feathered friendMay 07, 2021 02:59PM ● By ANN MARIE O’PHELAN
Perhaps your children would love a dog to play with, or you want to surprise your partner with a new cat. Well, that doesn’t mean you should quickly take action. There are many things to think about before bringing home a pet. “The first thing to consider is if you, or the pet owner, can make a lifetime commitment,” says Karen Fordiani, public information specialist with Lee County Domestic Animal Services.
Of course all pets need to be fed, exercised and cared for daily, and some need more attention than others. There are also costs involved. When you adopt from a local shelter, such as Fort Myers-based Gulf Coast Humane Society, the animals are spayed or neutered, vaccinated and microchipped. “However, it is the responsibility of the ‘furever’ family to maintain the pets' vaccinations, food supply and medical costs to give the pet a happy and comfortable life,” notes Brian Wierima, GCHS community relations coordinator.
You also want to think about the pet’s age, life expectancy, size, breed and temperament. It’s also important to consider all family members. “For example, if you have young children, it may be appropriate to adopt a smaller breed or a puppy, so they all can grow up together,” adds Wierima. “However, the puppy may need potty training.”
If you are an older adult with physical limitations, adopting a dog that walks easily and isn't “high energy” may be the wisest choice. But Wierima warns, “Senior pets are more easily manageable and lower maintenance—but they may come with medical issues.” Other pets in the home may also be affected by a newcomer.
“At GCHS, we highly encourage doing a ‘meet and greet’ with the shelter animal you are interested in adopting with your current dog. If you are interested in adopting a dog and already have a cat, we recommend dogs that do not have a ‘prey drive’ and to keep the dog and cat separated in the house until there’s a smooth transition. Being safe is always the way to go,” explains Wierima.
Be sure to find out if there are restrictions on owning a specific type of pet, breed or size at your residence. It’s vital to follow the rules of your homeowner's insurance or association. And, of course, if you ever have to move, it’s essential to find a place where your pet is allowed.
When choosing a pet, don’t limit your thinking to just cats and dogs. While they’re both good choices, a bunny, bird or reptile might be a better “fit.” Fordiani says, “We have a variety of animals available for adoption at LCDAS;” mentioning dogs, cats, bunnies, birds, ‘occasional’ pot-bellied pigs, reptiles and ferrets.
GCHS also has dogs and cats—in addition to “pocket pets” such as rabbits, gerbils, hamsters and ferrets. Wierima says, “These animals are housed at the Pet Smart in Naples, where they can be adopted.”
Microchipping is one of the best things you can do to ensure your pet’s safety. It’s especially important in Southwest Florida, considering the potential for tropical storms and hurricanes. LCDAS offers microchipping for Lee County residents at a reduced rate, as do other area shelters.
Lee County requires that cats, dogs and ferrets age 4 months or older, living in the county at least 30 days per year, be vaccinated against rabies and licensed by the county. Your other animals’ rabies vaccinations should be current before adopting a new pet. For more information, visit leegov.com/animalservices/licensing.
Lastly, once you bring your pet home, give it some time. “Allow for an adjustment period, especially if it is a rescue pet,” Fordiani says. If you have followup questions or concerns, call the place of adoption for further guidance.
Ann Marie O’Phelan is a Southwest Florida resident and a regular contributor to TOTI Media.
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