By Margaret Cate
Since Valentine’s Day has passed and Bachelor fever is sweeping the nation, it seems a fitting time to explore the world of matchmaking. No, I’m not talking about finding the perfect spouse; I’m talking about finding the perfect furry friend. To learn how to make that seamless match, I chatted with Maria McSweeney, DFL adoption supervisor and Avery Spear, DFL behavior supervisor.
When considering a specific animal for adoption, think in practical terms first. Is the animal a good fit for your lifestyle? “Carefully reflect on what you want and need from your new pet, as well as what you are able and willing to provide. Make sure that what you need and are able to give aligns with what shelter staff are telling you an animal will likely need and be able to give,” Avery says. “If anything from that animal’s history, current behavior or medical needs does not align with your lifestyle or is outside of your capabilities/comfort level as a pet owner, keep searching,” Maria says.
Spend adequate time with an animal before adoption to ensure that you understand their personality and behavior. Take a dog on a walk and always introduce it to other members of the family, particularly other canines. Know that cats may take longer to adjust to new people/surroundings, so have patience.
All good relationships take time to blossom. Maria suggests giving a new pet at least a month in your home before considering a return to the shelter. “It’s very much a two way street, though, and not entirely on the animal. Adopting patrons also need to be doing their part to help the animal acclimate with positive reinforcement, patience and understanding,” she says.
What about the emotional side of adoption? Bonding with an animal can happen at a slow or a fast pace. They may be drawn to you because your personality and energy levels are similar to theirs, because you shower them with affection or because they feel safe in your presence. “My understanding is that animals behave the way that they do, including behavior that we associate with bonding, in the hope of bringing about a desirable outcome,” Avery says.
“I believe dogs tend to ‘bond’ with new owners faster than cats do,” Maria adds. But there are moments of unexplained connection with cats when they seem to instantly pick you as their person. “I have, countless times, watched a fearful cat open up to seemingly random patrons and show a completely different side of themselves. When I have a potential adopter looking for a cat and having a hard time deciding, I always tell them that they’ll just know when they find the right cat. I believe that cats very much have a way of choosing their people if you allow them to,” she says.
So ditch the dating apps, and think about long walks in the park and slobbery kisses. When you know what you want, your perfect match may just find you.
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