Breed does not matter when looking for a friend: How pets from shelters find home

December 6, 2020
Social sector

30 November is World Pet Day. But many cats and dogs are still living in shelters, just hoping to find a home. In October (on World Animal Protection Day), the Department of Transport, together with partners, opened Tails and Paws, an online platform to find owners for stray dogs and cats. On the site, you can choose a pet and find out information about getting your home ready for a new friend.

And in early November, a themed train was put into operation in the metro: its carriages feature portraits of over 70 dogs and cats from 15 shelters. The QR code from each photo leads to a detailed profile of the pet describing its story, character and health status. After the launch of the project, more than 200 animals found homes.

At the same time, it is not enough to just buy a bowl and a mat for your future pet, since the adoption of a pet has become more complicated and civilised, because it is a great responsibility. To get a four-legged friend from the shelter, you need to go through an interview, conclude an agreement and be ready to report on the life and health of the pet.

Here are stories about three lucky animals that have recently begun a new life, with anecdotes from their owners, who were not afraid to take a responsible step and received loyal and grateful friends in return. One of the heroines is Cindy the dog: together with staff from her shelter, she attended the launch of the themed train in the metro, and a couple of weeks later she found a home.

Yulia Stetyuk: The cat understands that she was rescued

- We wanted a pet for a long time and understood that we would take one from the shelter, but we hesitated for ages. Recently in the metro we got on the Tails and Paws train, and decided that it was a sign of destiny. We visited the website and found the Murkosha cat shelter there.

We are a young family, we understand that any pet is a responsibility, you must pay attention to it, spend time and money on it. Since we are both cat lovers (both my husband and I had owned cats since childhood), there was no problem in choosing between a cat and a dog.

First, I went alone to the shelter to see where it was located, and find out how pets are taken care of there, and about their living conditions. I spent three hours there, because there are a lot of cats, more than 500. I especially liked one of them. She has an unusual name for a cat – Natasha, as well as a beautiful tortoiseshell colour. When I arrived home, I could not stop talking to my husband about her. A day later, we went together and took her away. Our home was already prepared, we bought everything we needed in advance: a litter box, a carrier, a bowl, a cat house, and so on. In the shelter, we have a special employee assigned to us in case we have any questions about care, nutrition or behaviour. When we took the kitty, we signed an agreement that meant we must report on her life and health every three months.

Natasha is two years old. It is still difficult to judge her character, because she has only been with us for a week. But I can say that she behaves like a very grateful animal: she is constantly with us, purrs, looks into our eyes, walks behind us and sleeps with us. Very affectionate, but at the same time with a strong character: you can’t take her into your arms unless she wants it. She chooses when to come to you and sit on your lap. It seems to me that she still can’t get used to the fact that she now has home, a large space where she can walk about, because she spent the last month in a cage. Of course, 52 square metres seem like a whole world to her, she still studies the flat, looking everywhere.

Taking a pet from the shelter is a really good deed. You don’t just pay money to breeders but save an animal that cannot take care of itself. Each pet from the shelter has its own difficult story. And relations with them become special, because the cat knows that she was rescued. And in return, she gives a lot of joy, positive emotions. I come home from work after a hard day and always quickly relax when she is around.

Natalia Kislitsyna: The breed does not matter when choosing a friend

- As a child, I had various pets, including cats and birds, but I never had a dog. There was no opportunity for this, since dad was a military man, we moved to a new location every few years, and it would be inconvenient with a dog. But in every courtyard we had dogs, and all the children of the military town played with them.

About 16 years ago I got a dog. She ran away from a construction site as a puppy, came to our area, and we took her away. We called her Ryzhaya. Six months ago she was gone. We did not even think about having a dog again, but I saw a photo of Cindy on the social network and was amazed – just a copy of our Ryzhaya. We took her to our place almost immediately, without hesitation. It is like making friends with a person: when you start communication, you do not find out his or her breed or life story.

We live in a gardening community. When we took our first dog, almost all the neighbours followed our example and also took mongrel dogs. None of them ever said that they regretted it. Of course, we can afford to buy a pedigree dog, but I do not see the point in that, because there are so many pets looking for a home. Friends should be chosen not by breed or colour.

Cindy is about six months old and very active. It is difficult to talk about her character yet, because she is adapting. We adopted her just a week ago. Of course, this involves huge stress for the animal, which has spent all its life in a cage without a home. But it gets better and better every day. Of course, we adored the first dog, but it had a complex wayward character. But Cindy is calm, well-mannered, and also very beautiful. Back at the shelter, she was vaccinated, microchipped and sterilised. And they gave us a bag of gifts for the trip home.

In the first days, we reported to the shelter on how the adaptation process was going and sent photos. I also called them to find out what daily and walking routine the dog had in order to help Cindy adapt as much as possible and avoid causing her additional stress. Or to find out whether I could let her off the dog-lead or not. They told me that I could let her off the leash. So she runs around our garden plot’s territory. Cindy is very active.

I adore dogs and all animals, and I dreamed of becoming a biologist. However, in the end I became a doctor. And I can say that the hallmark of the dog's genome is the absence of the betrayal gene. Have you ever seen a dog that chooses a "decent" owner or goes to another owner who is more pleasant and more presentable? Humans have a lot to learn from dogs.

Alexandra Balakhnina: If not us, who?

- When we wanted to get a cat, we decided to take one from the shelter. There are many of them there, and every one of them needs a home. In my opinion, taking a cat from a shelter is better than buying one. We went to choose one with my husband and child. We already have two dogs, so we decided to take a cat as well. We live in a house not a flat, so we have enough space.

There were a lot of animals in the shelter, and at first we were confused. My husband liked one kitty. She was calm and had an attractive appearance, with an interesting tortoiseshell colour. The centre’s employee said that she has a funny name – Gadya, and she was 13 years old. At that point, we began to have doubts, since adopting such an adult animal is risky. But then we thought: who else will take it, if not us. However, this is not the end of the story. We wanted to take one cat, but in the end we left with two. In addition to Gadya, we really liked Puss-Puss the kitten, so he also came home with us.

I was very worried about Gadya: how she would adapt to a new home at her advanced age, how she would communicate with our dogs. It turned out that there was no ground for worries. Gadya seemed to have lived with us all her life: she calmly went up to the dogs to get acquainted, sniffed and went on to explore the house. She is a lady with character, she is not afraid of anything, neither dogs, nor vacuum cleaner. The kitten tries to chase her and involve her in his games, but she is against it, she respects personal boundaries. The most interesting thing is that in public she behaves very calmly. But when she thinks that no one is watching her, she rushes around the house so that the chandeliers shake. We wonder how she can have so much energy at her age!

We didn’t have any particular problems with the new pets, except for toilet training. The cat flatly refused to share the litter box with the kitten. So now I have put a lot of boxes all over the house so she has a choice.

To adopt a pet, you need to go through an interview. The shelter’s specialists talked to us and assessed our ability to take care of the animal. This is great because a pet is a huge responsibility. And the specialists are always in touch. In the event of any difficulties, you can always call, and they will help. Now we communicate less, because a month has passed, everything has settled down, and the animals are used to their new life. But in the first few days, we were in close communication. The fate of the pets is closely monitored, and we periodically report back, sending photos. They really care for their animals. If something goes wrong, owners have the opportunity to give the pet back. I think this says a lot. The shelter employees understand that the pet will feel better staying with them than with other owners or on the street.

I advise anyone who is planning to take a pet from a shelter, to consider this seriously. Many animals have a difficult fate; they need time to adapt to a new owner, to start trusting people again. But if you are still determined, then this is a wonderful act: every animal wants to find a home; if there is an opportunity to help, we should do it. And in return you get a lot of positive emotions and a new friend.

Professional advice

Yana Shkurenkova, zoopsychologist at the Yuna rehabilitation centre for temporarily homeless animals, spoke about how to choose the right pet, prepare your home and how a pet is transferred to new owners.

- The word "temporarily" is key here. We believe that every animal will find a home sooner or later.

The animal should be selected by temperament and age. First you need to figure out what age range you are ready to take. It is clear that you will need to spend more time with a kitten or puppy: educating, training and housebreaking. And some people choose older pets.

You should also decide what kind of temperament you need. Some pets are cheerful and need active walks and games, while others are calmer, more balanced and like to sleep a lot. The shelter staff can tell you more about the pet’s character and temperament.

Yana Shkurenkova, zoopsychologist

Of course, before taking a pet, you need to get to know it. If we are talking about a dog, at first you can simply watch the animal: how it plays, how it communicates with other pets. Then try to feed it and see how the dog reacts to you. And then take it on a lead and go for a walk. Sometimes it takes several days, as it is not so easy to reveal the character of an animal, it is difficult to get to know a dog at once.

It is the same story with cats, but a little easier. You need to watch how the cat behaves, then approach it, stroke it, maybe scratch it, play, take it in your arms.

It is important to prepare your home for a new family member. If you choose a cat, then you definitely need to put strong mosquito nets on the windows, or better special pet screens. Get rid of all sprays, hide chemicals, vases, figurines, and other fragile items. It is also worth removing certain plants – some of them are poisonous. Next, buy bowls, a litter box, litter and suitable food (preferably the same kind as the cat is used to in the shelter). It is necessary to buy a scratching post and toys for a pet. Because if it doesn’t have toys, it will play with the wrong things.

For a dog, you need to prepare a dog-lead, a collar, and an address tag with the owner's phone number on it (it is better to include two numbers) and a nickname. At first, animals from the shelter are frightened by new sounds and can run away. Also, a dog needs its own place, some kind of lounger. It should have its own comfort zone, which it will get used to from the first day. The owner should not pull a dog out of this place by force, children should not disturb it, in a word, it should have its own place where no one disturbs it. A dog needs treats, toys, so that it does not vandalise. Again, we take away anything a dog might eat: chemicals, pills, and so on.

To rehome an animal, people go through an interview and conclude a contract. With dogs, the procedure is a little more complicated than with cats. I first speak on the phone with those willing to take a dog, find out what their living conditions are, and for what purpose they want to adopt the animal. For example, sometimes people want to give someone a dog, for example, a nephew. Most often, we refuse such people, because they give the dog away, but the parents could say tomorrow: “Oh, take it back.” After a preliminary conversation, if everything goes well, then people come to the centre, get acquainted and communicate with the dog. We conduct the second interview (more detailed). If everything suits everyone, we set a delivery day. I bring the dog that day and check the living conditions. If there are any pets, we introduce them to each other. If all is well, we sign an agreement, after which the dog remains with the family.

The procedure for cats is easier: there is only one interview, held on the day of the visit to the centre. And, in fact, you can take an animal away with you on the same day.

We have a practice called “hello from home.” Our specialist periodically requests a photo and video report from the new owners, starting from the second day of the pet's stay in the new home. If suddenly there are any problems, the manager redirects this issue to me or our director, and we settle it.

It happens that people return animals, but, as a rule, this happens almost immediately. For example, people are not prepared for any difficulties. Generally, of course, the new owners are happy with their new friends. I talk with people who adopted a dog a few months or a year ago. Sometimes difficulties arise that can be corrected.


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