How to Adopt an Animal (First-time Pet Owners)

In one of my previous blog posts, I shared five science-backed reasons for choosing to adopt stray indie dogs/cats over exotic breeds like Huskies or German Shepherds. Even if you’re still keen on having a breed, there are many homeless breed dogs waiting for you at the nearby shelter.

Breed or no breed, you’re making the ethical and responsible choice by not buying from breeders, as the latter directly leads to animal abuse due to the cruel practices followed by all stakeholders in the pet breeding industry without exception.

So congratulations on taking the first step towards bringing a furry friend home. As exciting as that can be, you may also have many questions and concerns if this is your first time as a per parent.

What should you expect? How should you prepare? How can you make sure this transition is safe and smooth for both your family and the lucky animal? I’ll answer all those burning doubts in this blog post.

So here’s a guide on how to adopt, onboard, and settle down with a stray dog, cat, or any other domestic animal in India (or elsewhere).

Step 1: Contact your local NGO

Obviously, the first step is picking your companion. If you’ve rescued a pooch or whisker from the streets, you can directly proceed to the first vet and grooming visit, just to clean them up, administer all the crucial vaccination shots, perform neutering (sterilization, if possible), and attend to any ailments, wounds, or medical issues.

If that’s not the case, you can contact your nearest animal shelter. They’ll almost always have a bunch of rescued and homeless strays eager to find loving parents. Access my global database or registered and responsible NGOs. You can contact them via email, phone, or social media, and they’ll set up a meeting at the address (also provided).

Most people go for puppies or young dogs/cats, but I encourage you to set a good example by opening your home to a senior animal. They are just as loving and caring but seldom get the attention they deserve for being good bois/gals all their life. The same goes for special needs animals or abuse survivors who should actually be celebrated for being brave through all the hardships they’ve had to endure.

Many notable celebrities across industries have already made this noble choice, and are happier than ever with their old pals.

Step 2: Know what’s expected

Once you visit the shelter, you’ll be given some time with the animal to check your compatibility, and also their comfort level with you.

The NGO may then request your IDs (e.g. Passport, Driving License, Aadhar Card, Residential Address Proof, Income Proof, and your condo’s NOC for keeping pets). They’ll also ask you to fill out registration forms that cover all the details regarding your experience or understanding of pet parenting.

You can expect some of the questions below. Don’t be intimidated or disheartened if you don’t have any knowledge or idea on how to answer them. No first-time parent comes ready with skills on how to handle their baby. It’s a learning process, quite a fulfilling one too. This is why the NGO people are there; they will guide you through everything so all you have to do is keep an open mind and listen to their advice.

  • Have you had experience with animals before?
  • Do you know any other pet owners?
  • Is your colony pet-friendly? (Rules & Regulations)
  • What are your office hours like?
  • When you’re away for work, who will take care of the animal?
  • How is your apartment/house structured?
  • How many people live in the space?
  • Where are you planning to keep the pet? (for sleeping/resting)
  • Where will the food and water bowls be placed?
  • What will you feed the pet? (feeding times & diet)
  • Who will be cooking the food?
  • How often will you be able to take the pet out on walks?
  • Are you comfortable cleaning their pee/poop?
  • Do you keep the house clean & well-organized?
  • How hygienic & health-conscious is your family?
  • Are you planning to take your pet when you travel?
  • If not, where will you keep them?
  • Are you able to come for a quarterly medical checkup?

As I said, you may not know the answers to many of these questions, so the volunteers will give you the required knowledge to become a well-informed responsible pet parent.

You can also consult other pet owners on Facebook (search “Your City + pet lovers/owners”) and ask them about their experiences. They may have some valuable tips to make your journey easier.

The next step will be a house visit. They may request to inspect your space for hygiene and safety standards. If you have dangerous equipment/hazards or unclean rooms, you might be disqualified as neither is safe for animals.

Last but not the least, with regards to your apartment’s policy on pet ownership, you can double-check with your secretary if it’s alright. If you face any trouble or objection, read up on the pet owner rights/laws in our country so you can defend your case confidently.

Step 3: Make all the arrangements

The third step is to make all the arrangements for bringing your friend home. You should begin by allocating a fixed place for the animal’s bed where they can rest and snooze. Usually, pets should have their own sleeping place as it gives them a sense of territory and disciple. But of course, occasional Netflix sessions and cuddles on the hooman’s bed are fine.

Also ensure the space is generally cool, well-ventilated, clean, and exposed to an ample amount of natural sunlight through windows.

In any case, pets should NEVER be kept in cages, locked kennels, or tied up in heavy chains. It’s extremely unethical and also makes them claustrophobic. If you train them well with patience and kindness, they will be nice and safe to guests, so there’s no need to restrain the poor animal except when you’re going out to public spaces.

If you’re into gardening, the second step is to clear all the plants that may be toxic to your animals. I’ve compiled a list below. Don’t worry, you won’t have to give up your horticulture hobby. Just replace the pots with these pet-friendly plants.

Here’s a checklist of all the basic things you may need to buy.

  • Dry/semi-wet food
  • Cat Nip (for cat owners)
  • Water bowl
  • Dry towels (hand-sized & big bath-sized)
  • Collar & leash
  • Pet Nametag (get it custom-made here)
  • 3-5 toys to keep them engaged
  • Pet Bed/Sofa (get it here)
  • Pee/Poop Scoopers & Cleaners
  • Shampoo & coat grooming kit (brushes, sprays, conditioners)
  • Anti-tick/flea spray (choose natural neem-based)
  • Paw Balm/cream (to keep them moisturized & clean)
  • Raincoat for the rainy season
  • Cleaning solution + wet broom for the house
  • Groceries for cooking at home (see pet-friendly recipes here)
  • Table/small fan (it can get hot in the summer)

I’ve compiled a list of great online websites where you’ll find every item on that list at a discounted rate. The brands listed in that article (like Captain Zack) have strict quality standards, so rest assured, their products are 100% safe for your pets (I’ve tried myself).

Regarding the cooking, most indie pooches are content with homemade (boneless) chicken breast and rice, boiled in chicken or vegetable broth. You can add a dash of turmeric, coconut oil, and boiled eggs for added health benefits. Fruits like blueberries, bananas, apples, and deseeded watermelons are also great for their health.

Cats are happy with fish and rice and enjoy it more if you mix some wet cat food.

In any case, please include meat in your pet’s diet. They’re not supposed to be vegetarians, and a vegan/veg diet is harmful and fatal to them in the long term. You may have seen pets living on Jain/veg diets but it’s not natural.

On the flip side, here are some human foods to avoid.

  • PARLE-G/GLUCOSE BISCUITS: These are fine once in a while if you don’t have anything else at that moment, but don’t make it your go-to option. Biscuits are loaded with sugar (duh) and have the same diabetic repercussions on animals. They also damage the skin & cause blindness due to glaucoma.
  • CHOCOLATE: It’s extremely toxic & fatal to dogs/cats.
  • COOKED BONES: Don’t feed boiled or cooked chicken bones because they can cause splinters in the tummy & lead to internal bleeding
  • COFFEE: Again toxic to animals
  • DAIRY ITEMS: Avoid milk for puppies as they cannot digest it properly, and it’ll lead to diarrhea. The same goes for cats (contrary to what’s shown in movies & cartoons, they’re actually lactose-intolerant). Use cheese slices sparingly only when you’re trying to sneak in a pill (medication).
  • BERRIES OR SEEDED FRUITS: These contain xylitol, which is harmful to animals
  • ONIONS & GARLIC: They can cause stomach irritation and, in severe situations, red blood cell destruction.
  • TOMATOES OR SEEDED FRUITS: Can cause diarrhea in some cases.

You can ask the NGO volunteers for advice and also google easy recipes. Over the next few months, you’ll understand your pet’s preference better, so give them some time to explore their pallette. It’s all about safe experimentation!

Step 4: Do trial runs to get comfy

Instead of jumping into the adoption, you can do a small trial run with the animal if you have the time and patience. Bring them home for a few hours and drop them back. This will also help them sniff out, explore, and learn about their new territory before they move in completely.

Most abandoned or rescued animals have spent years at their shelter, so a sudden transition to a completely new space may be scary or uncomfortable.

Step 5: Stay calm on the first day

It’s time to bring your buddy home! On the first day, you can expect them to move around a lot as they’ll want to sniff every corner of the house.

They may also pee and poop a lot as it’s a way of relieving their anxiety. So keep a bowl of fresh water ready in the kitchen.

Don’t worry if your animal shows signs of exhaustion. The move is mentally stressful for them so they’re just trying to soak it all in. More often than not, they’ll be at peace, fast asleep for the entire day, happy to have finally landed in the arms of loving people in a safe space that’ll be their home sweet home forever.

You should visit the vet for follow-ups within the first 15 days so they can confirm the animal is doing well, or if it needs a change in diet/exercise routine. After the first month, you can schedule the vet visit to once a quarter or twice a year. Keep some cash aside for quarterly grooming sessions, too!

If there’s a medical emergency, keep the volunteers’ number handy. You should also save in your contact list the following numbers so you can ring them at a moment’s notice.

  • Vet
  • Animal Ambulance
  • Police
  • Groomer
  • Other pet owners

Above all, keep calm and be patient with the animal. It’ll take time for them to adjust to you and your space, just like you did when you first moved in.

Step 6: Stick to a routine & socialize

House animals need a routine to stay mentally and emotionally healthy. They thrive on discipline, training, and regularity in terms of diet, walking (exercise), play, and rest. You can’t treat them like a human child or leave them at their own mercy. They need a Master to obey, or they’ll quickly become annoyingly notorious or hostile.

So set a routine that covers the following activities:

  • 2x 30 mins. daily walk (early morning + night)
  • 2 filling meals (with healthy snacks in between)
  • 1 hr. training or play/socialization with other dogs (any mentally stimulating activity)
  • Ample time for rest & sleep

Remember adult dogs sleep for 10-12 hours a day, much longer than the avg. human who needs 7-8 hours of proper sleep. So your dog may sleep a bit at night and take a nap in the afternoon, too, to make up the remainder of the quota, which is normal.

Newborn pups and senior dogs may stretch up to 15-18 hours as they need more rest.

It’s crucial you spend time interacting with your animal instead of keeping them in a cage/balcony. Dogs, of all animals, need plenty of time outdoors with their masters. Cats might not be as social but they still crave a human presence, albeit at a distance.

In any case, the animal’s entire world revolves around you, and unlike you, they don’t have other jobs or responsibilities, except caring for their masters. So don’t hand over the responsibility a caretaker as simply walking the animal isn’t enough.

That said, you should occasionally break the routines so your animal doesn’t get too attached to it. In fact, if you’ll be going out for a more than a couple days (for work/vacation), and leaving them in the hands of a trusted boarding facility or sitter, it’s advisable to do a few trial runs so your pet gets comfortable with the idea of you not being around them all the time.

If you think you won’t be able to manage the routine, you’re better of sponsoring/virtually adopting an animal, which is just as noble. Virtual adoption means you pay for a shelter dog’s meals, medical expenses, and general care. This will not only give you the satisfaction of loving the animal but also earn you a lot of good karma points from angel doggos watching us from the heavens!

Lastly, try not to make your dog solely attached to you. Although they will definitely pick their favorites, they should be comfortable with all members of the family, in case you’re not around.

Dogs do better if they regularly hang out companions from their own species. If they aren’t trained to socialize with other dogs from the beginning, they may grow up to be shy, lonely, fearful, or aggresive towards other woofs. So socializing is a must-do aspect of every dog’s personal growth. As such, actively look out for other canines in your vicinity, and arrange a pet playdate/meetup party.

Step 7: Share your story with us

As you’ve seen, adopting an animal is a lot of work, so is taking care of them on a daily basis. It’s like having a baby who will always stay a baby. Of course, the experience is rewarding, too. You’ll see yourself becoming a kinder and happier individual overall, because pets teach us to love unconditionally.

Pets have also been scientifically proven to improve your physical fitness and mental health, so it’s a win-win situation for you as well as the animal you’re bringing home.

Snugo was started to help people discover the beauty and joy in loving creatures of other species. We want to encourage the public open up their hearts to stray dogs and cats in need. If you can’t directly adopt them, simply buying merchandise from our site will also have a similar effect because we donate 50% of the net monthly profits to NGOs and shelters.

But if you do manage to adopt, please share your story on Instagram and tag us @heysnugo so we can use it as an example for motivating potential pet owners to make the ethical choice like you did. The more we share our stories, the more visibility we’ll generate for our cause of animal liberation.


In this article, we covered the basic steps and challenges you can expect when adopting a pet dog or cat for the first time. It’s a lot of hard work – just like any other commitment or relationship – but it’s equally fun, too.

Did I miss any crucial information? Is there an experience or pro tip you’d like to share with new pet owners? What are your thoughts on pet parenting? Let me know in the comments below!

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