Bringing Home Fido

Bringing Home Fido

In the past couple of months, pretty much everyone I know has chosen to foster or adopt a pet. Most were prompted by a gut need for unconditional love and companionship. So, it’s no wonder that dog and cat fostering and adoption levels are at an all-time high. Kelly DiCicco, manager of adoption promotions at the ASPCA Adoption Center, says “there’s no doubt that the response from people across the country willing to open their homes to animals in need during this challenging time has been enormous and unprecedented.”

But as tempting as it may sound to have a furry friend to comfort you these days, there is much to consider before you bring an animal into your home, not the least of which is the fact that animals will forever be dependent on you; unlike kids, who will eventually (you hope!) fend for themselves, you will always need to feed, discipline and clean up after your pet.

Pat Miller, a certified professional dog trainer and behavior consultant and the director of Peaceable Paws Academies in Fairplay, Md., says she sees too many people getting pets without thinking through all that it entails — a phenomenon not unique to the pandemic. “Happens all the time. We are just seeing more of it now because so many people who are sitting at home with nothing to do are deciding it’s a good time to get a pet.”

“Animals do not need to come into an environment where there is conflict over their presence,” she says. She suggests setting clear guidelines and rules of what the pet is allowed to do — and not do — in advance. Questions to consider: Is the animal allowed on the furniture? Where will the animal sleep? Who is going to clean up, walk and feed the animal? Who is the primary trainer? What happens when everyone goes back to school and back to work? “The more you think through ahead of time, the less conflict and confusion there is for the animal.”

Miller also suggests finding a vet, groomer, pet sitter (you’ll need one someday!) and trainer before bringing an animal home. Interview them about their methods, and determine whether they are on the same philosophical page as you. For example, Miller is a force-free trainer; she is adamant about not using pain coercion in training, but there are others, she says, who are not.

Other prep work to do: Purchase supplies in advance, and set everything up before the pet’s arrival. DiCicco’s must-have list for cats: a collar, litter and litter box (make sure you have a spot to put them), food, toys and bowls. For dogs: a leash, collar and harness, bed, food, toys, bowls and crate.

DiCicco says you also need to make that your home safe before and after you bring your pet home. Remove all items from the floor that could be eaten or chewed, and keep electrical wires out of reach. Also, check that your house plants are safe. The ASPCA has compiled a list of plants that are toxic to animals that should be removed from your home or put out of reach. Other potential pet hazards: vertical blinds, curtains that pool on the floor, tassels and long cords.

If you are adopting or purchasing a cat, install high-quality metal screens on all windows. And keep in mind that cats are excellent climbers, so pet-proofing for a cat means more than just keeping the floor area safe; move plants and fragile objects to a protected area. For kittens, DiCicco says to block any small hideouts where the kitten could escape or get stuck, including around and underneath appliances.

Story written by Elizabeth Mayhew, The Washington Post