There have only been a few times in my life when I didn't have a pet. Whether it be cat, dog, horse, or fish, I usually had a friend from the animal world to care for and in return be rewarded with companionship, loyalty, and affection.
My two current pets, sister and brother shelter cats Finn and Lucy, have been with me since around the time I met my husband four years ago. They have lived with us on the Oregon coast, then moved inland, then across the country to the Midwest, and this year they made the trip back with us to the Pacific Northwest. They've logged more highway miles than many human beings do in their lifetime. Even with all of the travel we've subjected them to, my husband and I have tried to provide a loving and stable home. With no children of our own, they have become the “kids” in our little family unit.
Unfortunately, not all shelter cats (and dogs) are lucky enough to find forever homes. If you’re looking for a pet, consider a shelter first. Though many shelters are no kill and do foster animals out to families willing to take them for a short duration, those cats and dogs are still in need of loving, long-term homes. You can find pets to adopt via the ASPCA.org online or just visit your local shelter.
When I adopted Finn and Lucy, I only went in for one cat. I was teaching at a school near the shelter and heard they were discounting their black cats because they are the most difficult to adopt out. Apparently, outdated and unfounded superstitions regarding black cats linger and prevent them from finding the homes they deserve. I chose an all-black female kitten, but she had a cage mate, a black and white male kitten. When I found out they were brother and sister, I couldn't bear to separate them, and I’m so glad I didn't. They enjoy each other’s company as much (or more!) than they do ours.
Even if you’re not looking for a pet right now, consider donating time or money to your local shelter, the Humane Society, or the ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals). You can donate to either organization online, or you can donate to your local shelter directly. If you are able, another option is to donate your time. Most shelters need volunteers to help keep facilities clean, feed the animals, or even just socialize with them or give them a bit of exercise through playtime. If you’re interested, contact your shelter to find out how you can help.
Animals cannot speak for themselves. They need human advocates, and most of all they need loving homes and owners who can provide the care, time, and attention they crave. I didn’t adopt Finn and Lucy with the notion of giving to charity, but I realize now that the money I paid to adopt them contributed to the shelter where they had been taken as strays. My adoption fees and the next adopting family’s fees might have paid for neutering or spaying future strays. When giving to an animal charity, you may not know the specific way your funds are used, but you can be sure they contribute to improving the lives of animals in need.