10 Ways Adopting a Shelter Pet Is a Special Experience

April 30 was National Adopt a Shelter Pet Day. It’s a day meant to raise awareness for all the animals waiting in animal shelters and rescues for forever homes. And it’s not too late to adopt your own animal if you’re prepared. Here are 10 ways adopting a shelter pet is a special experience that breeders and pet shops just can’t match.

1. Your animal might come with a detailed bio

When you shop instead of adopting, you’re not going to get much, if any, information on the animal. But an animal shelter should be able to provide you with a detailed bio of many of the animals in its care, which will help ease their transition into your home. “Most shelters and rescue groups conduct thorough behavioral analyses of each pet to ensure that they will be the right fit for your family,” the Humane Society of the United States says. And for the record, shelter animals are not damaged goods. “Most pets end up homeless through no fault of their own,” HSUS says.

2. You’ll find a better match

The details of an animal’s history and temperament are one factor that allows animal shelters to find a perfect match for you. But there’s also the fact that you’ll have a much wider selection when you look at shelters and rescues versus breeders and pet shops. You’re just about guaranteed to find the breed, size, age, personality, etc. of animal that best fits your lifestyle. If you’re looking for an older cat to keep your senior feline company, a perfect match is waiting at a shelter. And even if you want a purebred dog, you don’t have to resort to shopping. “Breed-specific rescue groups always have purebred dogs and puppies looking for new homes,” according to HSUS.

3. The animals are one of a kind

two rescue mixed breed dogs lying in grassCredit: RickSause/Getty Images

Walk into any animal shelter, and you’re bound to spot dogs and cats unlike any you’ve ever seen before. Sure, some people might be fans of a specific breed. And that’s fine — there are homeless purebreds, too. But there’s something special about adopting a mixed breed who’s one of a kind. They truly become your animal (and you their human). And they’re pretty great icebreakers, too. If you adopt an interesting-looking mutt, for instance, be prepared to frequently hear, “What kind of dog is that?”

4. You might be able to skip basic training

If you adopt an older animal (even ones who are still under a year old), there’s a good chance they’ve already had some training. Cats will already know how to use a litter box, and dogs will understand your house isn’t their litter box. The hard work is already done for you, and all you’re left with is ironing out the details of their transition into your home. Plus, many shelters and rescues even work on other skills with their animals while they wait for homes, such as teaching dogs to walk well on leashes. And you just get to enjoy the fruits of their labor.

5. You’ll save money

Adoption is much cheaper than going to a breeder or pet shop. And you get more bang for your buck. “Buying a pet can easily cost $500 to $1,000 or more,” according to Best Friends Animal Society. “Adoption costs range from $50 to $200, depending on whether the pet comes from the city shelter or a rescue group that has spent money on boarding, vets and grooming.” For your adoption fee, you not only get the animal, but often vaccinations, deworming and other medication, a microchip and potentially free or discounted spay/neuter. And you get the satisfaction of knowing your money is going toward helping more homeless animals.

6. You also might save on lifetime health costs

Besides lower costs up front, you also might save more over the course of your animal’s life if you adopt a shelter pet. “Based on the well-established principle of ‘hybrid vigor,’ a mixed-breed animal is likely to live longer and cost less in vet bills than a pure breed,” Best Friends says. “Many purebred dogs are prone to developing health problems ranging from breathing difficulties to hip dysplasia to an enlarged heart.” It’s all down to the individual animal’s genetics and circumstances, but your odds for these expensive health problems are higher in a purebred.

7. You’ll make helpful connections

people looking at a cat at an animal shelterCredit: FatCamera/Getty Images

For breeders and pet shops, their primary goal is to make sales. But shelters and rescue groups exist to place animals in forever homes where they can be healthy and happy. So once you adopt, they’re always going to be a resource to help you with your animal. “Shelters and rescue groups can provide advice on making your relationship with your pet the best it can be for the rest of their life, so you’ll never have to go it alone,” according to HSUS.

8. You’re saving lives, not adding to a problem

“Approximately 6.5 million companion animals enter U.S. animal shelters nationwide every year,” according to the ASPCA. Some are adopted. Some are returned to their owners. But still, roughly 1.5 million shelter animals are euthanized each year. This is a serious problem — and going to a breeder or pet shop just adds fuel to the fire. “When you buy a pet, you not only deny a homeless pet a home, you are supporting an industry that thrives on short-changing the welfare of animals,” Best Friends says. But when you adopt, you’re not contributing to pet overpopulation. And consequently you’re saving lives even beyond that of your own animal.

9. You’re making a statement

Don’t hesitate to brag a little bit when you adopt a shelter pet. Both you and your animal have earned it. “When you proudly tell others you chose to rescue an animal, you’re sending a message that individuals can take effective action to save lives, fight cruelty, and end suffering,” according to the ASPCA. “The movement starts with one, but can expand to a family, then to a community, then to many communities.” And it’s important to show off how loving and well-adjusted shelter animals can be to help break lingering stigma that they all have issues.

10. It’s one of the most rewarding experiences

Smiling rescue dog enjoying a sunny dayCredit: sanjagrujic/Getty Images

Sure, any animal can be a positive addition to your life. But adopting a shelter pet can be a uniquely rewarding experience. There’s nothing like seeing a rescue dog who had been abused finally realize they’re safe, come out of their shell and turn into a wildly happy and loving companion. With adoption, you have the power to completely turn around a life. And some rescue animals even seem to realize that — showing you a special kind of love and gratitude for the rest of their lives.

Main image credit: David Baileys/Getty Images


Lara A
Lara A10 days ago

Thanks very much

JoAnn Paris
JoAnn Paris12 days ago

Thank you for this very interesting article.

Muriel Servaege
Muriel Servaege12 days ago

Thank you for sharing!

Sherry Kohn
Sherry Kohn13 days ago

Many thanks to you !

Richard B
Richard B13 days ago

thank you

Danuta Watola
Danuta W13 days ago

Thanks for sharing.

Lee Juslin
Lee Juslin13 days ago

Rescued, adopted animals seem to understand and often show gratitude. Adopt, don't shop and NEVER buy an animal from a pet shop as that promotes the horrible puppy mills.

Renata B
Renata B13 days ago

Absolutely, always! The alternative is unthinkable.

Anne Moran
Anne Moran13 days ago

I have had that experience, and it was very rewarding in more ways than one.. - I also rescued a black Lab from the streets many years ago,, and that was also a very loving experience...

Naomi Dreyer
Naomi Dreyer13 days ago