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There is nothing as disappointing, and even devastating, than when you adopt a wonderful pet only to determine that it isn’t a match. That initial excitement when you bring a new furry one home can sometimes run into a heavy dose of reality. There are many instances when pet adoption doesn’t work out and for a variety of reasons. Sometimes a newly adopted pet isn’t a good fit, or it just wasn’t the right time to adopt. Whatever the case, it is heartbreaking, we understand.

The team at Westarbor Animal Hospital is taking a closer look at the reasons behind failed pet adoptions to help potential pet owners avoid this heartbreak.

Reasons Why Your Adopted Pet Isn’t a Good Fit

In a perfect world, we would easily match all wonderful bundles of fur to their loving families without any issues at all. In fact, 10% of adopted pets are returned to the shelter within the first 6 months. Most shelter pets, though, come with varied backgrounds and behavior challenges that the good intentioned person who is adopting may not have considered. Most pets, in fact, are chosen by looks alone, rather than important details like disposition, breed characteristics, longevity, and so on.

There are quite a few reasons why pets are returned to shelters. The more common of these include:

  • Repeat housetraining accidents
  • Chewing, digging, and other destructive behavior
  • Aggression
  • Hyperactivity (needs more energy than the owner can provide)
  • Separation anxiety (howling, crying, barking)
  • Chronic barking
  • Doesn’t do well with children or other pets
  • Timid/anxious
  • Lack of training and socialization
  • Unexpected veterinary costs
  • Lack of time or financial commitment from owner
  • Major life change, such as a pregnancy or residential move

These are the most common reasons given for failed adoptions, but with understanding and education, pet owners can address most shelter pet behavior issues. It’s much the same with adopting puppies and kittens. They need instruction, training, great veterinary care, and socialization in order to become a well-behaved happy and healthy adult dog or cat. It takes time and work (and patience!), no doubt about it.

What to Consider for a Successful Adoption

Now that you know why pet owners return dogs and cats to shelters, you can ensure that the outcome of your pet adoption is a match made in heaven. Here are the key considerations you should ponder before you bring home a new pet.


  1. How much time do you have? Owning a pet is a huge time commitment, and especially during the first few months while your new pet is adjusting to the home. Plan for allotting time for training, exercising your pet, grooming, affection, and so on.
  2. How will you deal with behavioral issues? Many pets from shelters are there because they had a rough start to life. Some have experienced abuse and neglect, while others simply aren’t house trained or trained to follow commands. Expect to work with your veterinarian or trainer to get your pet adjusted to their new life with you.
  3. Are you financially committed? Caring for a pet, while invaluable, is also expensive. From the initial adoption fees to buying treats, food, toys, a bed, etc., as well as veterinary care and professional grooming, pets are pricey. Are you able to set aside money for your new fur friend?
  4. Do you know what pet works best for you? All pets are adorable, we agree, but if you have a tiny apartment and adore a Great Dane, it probably isn’t a good match. If you want a rambunctious kitten but wouldn’t be happy if your new couch becomes a scratch pad, you should choose differently. Consider your lifestyle, space, preferences, and so on and choose a pet that is aligned with your needs.
  5. Are you in for the long haul? Pet ownership is a lifetime commitment. Some cats live 17-20 years, and small dogs can live until age 20. Birds and tortoises live many decades, as well. Know the life expectancy of any pet you are considering owning, so you understand their longevity and what to expect.

Other important considerations are whether you have any upcoming changes that will be disruptive, such as a more challenging career, going back to school, the birth of a child, etc. This can help you plan the right time to commit to a pet. Also, be sure to introduce your potential new pet to current pets and kids to get a feel for how they all get along.

When Your Adopted Pet Isn’t a Match…Call Us!

If you still are wondering whether adoption is right for you, or are on the fence about a certain pet, please contact us. We know that there are situations where an adopted pet isn’t a good fit, but with some preliminary work and thought, and a little dedication to helping a new pet adjust, we are sure you will find the perfect match.

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