College of Veterinary Medicine

Pet Health Topics

Adoption: Puppy or Adult? 


This information is not meant to be a substitute for veterinary care. Always follow the instructions provided by your veterinarian.

Spring comes every year and new life suddenly abounds. Nowhere is this phenomenon more apparent than in the pet section of the classified ads. Puppies and kittens of every shape, color, and breed are suddenly available en mass and to fit any price range. Before an individual catches this “Spring Fever” and is tempted to buy a puppy or kitten; they should consider the “strings” attached to these little furies, and instead consider adopting an adult animal.

Puppies and kittens are beautiful, fluffy, and incredibly cute as they tear about your house and discover all that is new in their world. However, they’re also nave to appropriate “pet” behavior and need training. Effective house breaking requires taking the animal outside several times throughout the day and watching them to praise good toileting behavior. If a new owner doesn’t have the time to devote to proper training they’re setting themselves up for frustration; worse yet, they maybe sentencing their new pet to a life, or death, at the animal shelter. 

Directly linked to house training a new puppy or kitten is the rigorous feeding schedule their growing bodies require. To prevent obesity and growth deformities, young animals shouldn’t be allowed to eat as much as they please. Instead, they should be fed measured portions of food through out the day. Additionally, most animals go to the bathroom within one hour of eating. So, after each feeding, the puppy or kitten should be taken outside for a house-training lesson. 

In addition to the feeding and house-training demands, young animals require more veterinary care. Their vaccinations are not simple boosters for pre-existing immunity. Their shots are administered in a series that requires multiple veterinary visits. Most veterinary clinics offer very reasonable rates for puppy/kitten vaccinations, but the time necessary for multiple clinic visits can’t be altered. Also, skipping the vaccinations altogether is never a good idea. Without the vaccinations the young animals are especially susceptible to potentially fatal infections. 

Given all that, now consider adopting an adult animal. As a benefit to the new owners, most adult animals from shelters are already house broken, and will communicate when they need to go out. Additionally, prior to adoption, the animals are spayed or neutered and some cats are already declawed. That’s an investment in veterinary care that you’d have to make with a puppy or kitten.

Finally, the animal shelter pets come with a behavior profile so you know what commands they understand and what their temperament is like. Perhaps the best “benefit” to adopting an adult animal is the knowledge that you saved their life. Nationwide more adult animals are destroyed than puppies or kittens, because the adults are less likely to find a home. 

Acquiring any pet has intrinsic costs and responsibilities that must be taken into account. Before you open your home to an animal, look at your life style and decide what would be best for you and the animal you’re adopting. Think carefully about adopting an adult animal.  It may be one of the best decisions you ever make.

This Pet Health Topic was written by Sarah Hoggan, Washington State University, Class of 2001.

Washington State University assumes no liability for injury to you or your pet incurred by following these descriptions or procedures.


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Last Edited: Dec 16, 2014 3:56 PM   

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