There are many benefits to adopting a pet. Not only do you get unconditional love, but you are likely to have lower blood pressure, fewer feelings of loneliness and more opportunities to socialize, just to name a few.

If you have the time and resources to care for a pet, adopting from a shelter or rescue is a great choice. There are thousands of animals of all species, breeds, sizes, colors and personalities waiting for loving families to take them home.

To search for local organizations with adoptable pets, see the “Adoption” section of our Local Guide to find rescue and shelter website links. You can also visit searchable databases, such as PetHarbor, Petfinder, Adopt-a-Pet or How I Met My Dog.

Adopt A dog or cat

Choosing Your Pet

Responsible pet ownership means making a commitment to care for an animal for the lifetime of the pet. Depending on the breed, this can be 10 to 18 years. Being a good owner takes time and resources to provide for your pets’ needs – basic, health, safety and behavior. It is also important to think about your current lifestyle and future plans to make sure you are ready.

Of course, life can change in unexpected ways, but by spending time planning before you adopt can you decide if now is the right time to adopt and, if so, what type of pet may be best. If now is not the best time to adopt, fostering may be a great way to help animals until you are ready to adopt one of your own.

There are many considerations when choosing a pet, such as: how much time you have to spend, your activity level, how many hours a day you are away from home, and how much money you have to spend on pet care.

Selecting a dog is very different from selecting a cat. Both make wonderful pets, but have different requirements. Remember to consider adult and senior pets as they often require less time and training than young pets, but have just as much love to give.

Costs to adopt cats or dogs vary from one shelter or rescue to the next, with puppies and kittens often costing more than adults. Most rescued pets come already fixed (spayed or neutered) and with basic vaccinations, but you should confirm this to know if you’ll have additional expenses.

Adopting the pet is just the first step. In addition, you’ll need supplies such as food; water and food bowls; bedding and/or a crate; collar and leash; heartworm and flea/tick prevention; and enrichment items, such as toys. Each year, you will also need funds for vaccination boosters and a veterinary wellness exam. Owners never know when a pet may get sick or injured, so many purchase pet insurance, participate in a veterinary discount program and/or set aside money in case of unexpected bills. Some owners also purchase liability insurance for themselves in case their dog ever gets out and bites another person or pet.

No! Thousands of wonderful pets end up in Greater Houston shelters every year because something has changed in the owners’ lives, such as a move, financial hardship, health problem, divorce, death or job change. Although there are many resources available to help owners rehome their pets, some are unable or unwilling to do so, resulting in their pets being taken to shelters or rescues.

When you adopt instead of shop, you help save the life of your new pet and make space for another animal in need to receive help. Plus, you can often save hundreds of dollars as many adopted pets have already received vaccinations and spay/neuter surgery. The money you save can help buy supplies or can be saved for future care.

Many people are surprised to know that about 25 percent of all pets in shelters are purebreds. There are also a variety of breed-specific rescue groups that routinely take pets from shelters or owners who are no longer able to care for their pets. When you adopt, you save the life of that pet, plus make space for the shelter or rescue to help more animals in need.

There are endless options of where to get pets in Greater Houston, including shelters, rescues, rehoming websites and social media sites. It is best to work with reputable groups or people who are referred by others you know. Ask them to provide veterinary records. This is especially important when adopting puppies, as there are some bad actors that separate puppies from mothers too soon, use unsafe breeding practices or lie about what veterinary care has been provided to the puppy. Do your research before adopting your puppy or any pet. Only provide fees once you are confident you are working with a trusted group or individual.

It is usually not recommended to gift pets as gifts. Because of the long commitment of time and money, it is best for new owners to make this decision themselves and to select pets that are best suited for their lifestyles and budgets. Since every pet has its own personality, it is also ideal to let the new owner choose the pet so a strong connection is created from the beginning. Instead, you can make a certificate to show you will pay for adoption fees, then later let the new owner select the pet.

Pet ownership does require a commitment of time and money, such as adoption fees, pet deposits, annual vaccines, monthly heartworm prevention, food and supplies. Some communities have low-cost services and food pantries to help, however, if you are concerned about the ongoing expense and time commitment of ownership, you may wish to consider fostering through a local shelter or rescue group.

Most organizations provide all veterinary needs, medications and supplies, and many provide food. Fostering assignments can be a short as a few days or for months, depending on the organization and program you select. You’ll receive the love and companionship of a pet and know you are saving the lives of pets in need.

Additional Resources:

Preparing Your Home & Family

Creating a safe environment by pet-proofing your home is critical for meeting your pet’s safety needs. Be sure your pet cannot reach or jump on counters or shelving to get to items that can poison them, such as prescription or over-the-counter medications, human foods and sweeteners that are dangerous to pets, household cleaners, plant and lawn food, certain plants, insect and rodent poisons, antifreeze and auto supplies and many more. Get familiar with the list and post it in your home along with one of the pet poison control numbers in case you suspect your pet has eaten or contacted something toxic.

Pick up your floor or tables to remove any small or sharp items, such as needles, coins, staples or paperclips. Close toilet lids, drain bathtubs and empty buckets of water to prevent accidental drowning or poisoning. Hide or protect electrical cords and remote controls as many pets like to chew on these. Close the dryer door and always check the washer and dryer for pets before use. Be sure your pet cannot hit the knobs to accidentally turn on the stove and potentially start a fire. Also look at your fence, gates and yard to make sure your pet cannot escape through holes or jump onto tables or air conditioning units to jump over fencing.

See the Safety Needs section for many more tips, including information on microchipping and providing an ID collar for your pets, which is especially important when they move into their new home!

  • Explain that pet ownership is a commitment for the life of the pet, especially if the child is expected to take responsibility for the pet.
  • Allow your children to help select the pet and supplies so they feel a sense of ownership from the beginning.
  • Teach your children to respect your pet by being gentle and playing nicely, leaving the pet alone during mealtime and allowing pets to choose to spend some time alone.
  • Help children learn that dogs and cats communicate with body language and recognize what pets are saying when they send different signals.
  • Supervise your children’s interactions with pets until you feel certain your children and pets can safely spend time together.  

Additional Resources:

Food when Adopting A Pet