Why Did You Choose Your Pet? Research Uncovers Real Reasons

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A study of nearly 1,500 adopters from five animal shelters across the country has uncovered the reasons behind why adopters chose the particular pet they took home.

Conducted by the ASPCA, the study revealed that appearance of the animal, social behavior with adopter, and behaviors such as playfulness were the top reasons for adoption across species and age groups.

  • More than 27 percent of dog adopters cited appearance as the single most important reason, while more than 26 percent of cat adopters cited behavior with people as the most important factor.
  • Within each species, the results give an even greater glimpse into the factors that are most important for adopters. Appearance was the most frequently cited reason for kitten adopters (23 percent), while adult cat adopters cited behavior with people as the most important reason (30 percent). In contrast, appearance was the most frequently cited reason for adopters of both puppies (29 percent) and adult dogs (26 percent).

“The results of this study give us a glimpse inside of the adopter’s mind when it comes to choosing a pet. The information can be used by shelters to create better adoption matches, prioritize shelter resources and staff training, and potentially increase adoptions,” said Dr. Emily Weiss, vice president of shelter research and development for the ASPCA. “Additionally, some simple training techniques for shelter staff can be gleaned from this to make sure they are showcasing the wonderful personalities and behaviors of their adoptable dogs and cats.”

In addition, a greater number of adopters stated that information about the animal from a staff member or volunteer was important than adopters who found information on cage cards, and health and behavior information was particularly important.

  • Roughly 80 percent of adopters reported that an important source of information about their pet was given to them from a staff member or volunteer.
  • Receiving information about the pet’s health (nearly 90 percent) was more important than receiving information about the pet’s behavior (roughly 80 percent), or about the pet’s life before entering the shelter (roughly 60 percent).

Adopters also found greater importance in interacting with the animal rather than viewing it in its kennel.

  • Thirty-three percent of adopters reported that the first thing their kitten did when they first met him/her was vocalize, while 22 percent of adult cat adopters reported their cat first approached or greeted them.
  • More than 20 percent of people reported that the first thing their adopted canine (both puppies and adult dogs) did when they first met him/her was approach or greet them followed by licking (more than 14 percent).
  • For both cats and dogs, seeing the pet’s behavior when interacting with them was more important than seeing the pet behind the cage door, or seeing the pet’s behavior toward other animals.

The study was conducted from January through May 2011 at five animal welfare organizations in the U.S., two of which are open-admission shelters that perform animal control services for their municipalities: Hillsborough County Animal Services in Tampa, Fla. and Charleston Animal Society in Charleston, S.C. The three others are limited intake, privately-funded animal shelters: Animal Rescue Foundation in Walnut Creek, Calif.; Wisconsin Humane Society in Milwaukee, Wis.; and the ASPCA Adoption Center in New York, N.Y.

0 thoughts on “Why Did You Choose Your Pet? Research Uncovers Real Reasons”

  1. When we adopted our puppy, 12 years ago, we saw her sleeping in a basket at a PetSmart adoption day. She slept all the way home in the car too. Then she woke up and boy was she a hand full. We had no idea what her personality was like. We just thought that she was so cute. Well we love her dearly and she is still very cute.

  2. We adopted a little miniature pincher mix from a rescue at Petsmart. She was about 5 pounds with huge ears. She was so nervous and scared. She did not eat for 3 days. Now she is 12 pounds and fearless. She loves everyone she meets including the horses that walk by our house. She will do anything for a treat. She is an awesome, loving dog. Plus, she only barks when she needs to go outside to go potty. Rescue dogs are the best!

  3. When we adopted our dog 8 years ago she was in her cage at the Humane Society and came up to the front of the cage, and wagged her tail. There were other people in front of her cage but she didnt pay much attention to them. We walked across the large room looking at other dogs and i looked back at her cage. She was following us with her eyes as if to say, “pick me, pick me!” So glad we did.

    • I think the reasons in the article only have a little to do with why someone picks a pet. If those reasons were true all ugly, shy, sorry looking dogs would never be adopted and put down.

      To me, it’s the dog that does the choosing. When you walk in, he smells and senses something about you. He can instantly judge your personality, warmth and character. He knows you are approachable and wants your attention because he likes you already, so he makes the effort for you to like him.

      We did this with my daughter. We walked into the area where all the puppies were let out to play. They all jumped up and ran for us. We waited and watched as most of them found something more interesting to chase, after a while only one puppy held it’s interest in my daughter. The dog was affectionate, interested in play with her and good natured. That’s the dog we chose.

  4. I was at orientation to just volunteer at the shelter and when we walked into one of the dog rooms and everyone was barking even the other pug that was in the same cage as my Oliver. He was just sitting in the back with his big eyes looking real nervous. We stared at each other for a while and then when I went home I couldn’t stop thinking about him. I contacted the shelter and the rest is history. He is the sweetest dog ever.

  5. Good Thing different people like different looks on pets! Personality Means More than looks to me though, even in my pets 🙂

  6. how would it be any different than we are initially attracted to women/men, cars, houses, etc etc etc.

    However, I chose mine cause he chose me!


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