How to Get a Pet Online

Cute cat

Congratulations! You've decided you have the time and resources to adopt a new pet. Cyber-shelters like let you search hundreds of shelters and rescue groups for the pet of your dreams without leaving your comfortable chair.

Today's shelters and rescue groups are better trained and more willing to provide tips for making your adoption a wonderfully rewarding experience.

Before you begin your cyber-journey, here are a few tips to keep in mind when looking for your new pet.

1. In person is best!

There's no substitute for meeting the pet in person to see if the match is right for you … and the pet. Adopting is a relationship that should last the lifetime of the pet. Impulse buying or the wrong lifestyle match leads to many returned pets.

If you truly don't want to go into the shelter, or the rescue group doesn't have a facility, ask about off-site adoption opportunities or special appointments.

2. Who are you adopting?

The best possible match to your family and lifestyle will help your adoption be a lifelong, rewarding one. Some websites like allow you the opportunity to search by breed, sex, size and other criteria. Be flexible when looking at the available pets.

Behavior can be more important than size. If the pet's behavior and temperament, including likes/dislikes (other pets, children, etc.) isn't listed, ask the shelter/rescue to include this information. If you have another pet, you should arrange to have them meet.

Medical history. Is the pet spayed or neutered? Will the shelter provide this surgery or do they offer low-cost alternatives? Does it have all its shots (and which ones are given as part of your adoption contract)? If you don't know about breed-specific characteristics, ask!

3. Visit often … and don't give up!

Pets come into shelters and rescue groups every day. Keep looking. Check as many sites as possible. Post your needs on Petfinder.coms Pet Wanted listing in the Classified section.

4. Who are you adopting from? What will you need?

Policies and procedures vary from group to group. Find out as much about the group as you can … are they a non-profit, municipal, private, rescue?

What will you need to bring including a vet reference, proof your other pets are altered, landlord permission, etc.

Is there an adoption fee? What does it include? (Shots, leash, spay/neuter).

What are the group's spay/neuter policies? You may have to wait a day to pick up your pet after it is altered. Or, you may have to schedule the appointment on your own. Do they have low-cost spay/neuter options?

What is the group's return policy? Even though you've done your homework, the adoption may not work out. Can you bring the pet back at any time? Is there a fee?

5. Follow-up

What help does the organization offer after adoption? Do they provide information on medical or behavior issues when you adopt? Do they have a phone or web help line, etc.? Can they recommend vets, trainers, or behavior specialists?

Some other helpful sites:

National Organizations:

American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals:

Humane Society of the United States:

American Humane Association:

National spay/neuter resources

Friends of Animals:


Feral cats:

Alley Cat Allies:

Dog trainers:

Association of Pet Dog Trainers: