By pet chemistry, we don’t mean the science that deals with the composition and properties of substances and various elementary forms of matter! When we’re talking about match making you and your home with a new pet, the kind of chemistry we’re talking about is “the interaction of one personality with another” and some of the “sympathetic understanding” type of chemistry. Figuring out how your personality interacts with a potential new pet, and how that pet’s personality will mesh with the other pets and people in your home, can sometimes feel like scientific experiment with all its complexities! There are some elemental guidelines you can use to help you make the most of your meet and greets with potential adoptees. These can help you be more likely to pick the pet that makes those little hearts and cherubs dance happily around your heads for the rest of your lives.
Personality vs Looks
We assume you’ve decided how much looks, or more technically physical characteristics, are important to you. If you have your heart set on a silver tabby, a little fluffy dog, or a big muscular brindle dog, that will narrow down the pets you choose from – but it doesn’t eliminate the importance of personality chemistry.
Chemistry is made up of elements! There are personality “tests” for pets created by animal behaviorists, just like there are for people. But for a regular person, not a professional trainer or shelter staff, there are some simpler ways to assess an animal you’re meeting. Keep in mind that pets in a shelter setting (cages or kennels) can and often do act very differently than pets in a home. If you have very strict personality requirements, like say you have a home with small children or multiple pets, and don’t feel confident in your ability to train or work with a pet that might not be an ideal fit, selecting an adult pet that has been in a foster home environment is one great way to get a more solid idea of how that pet will likely do in your home.
Ask staff or volunteers for more information. In a shelter/kennel setting, the more time you spend with the pet, the better your ability to assess their personality elements. Ask shelter staff or volunteers if they can provide you with more information. Shelter pets at an adoption fair or off-site adoption event are often with their handlers for many hours – those handlers can often offer you valuable insight!
- Element #1: Energy Level
Do you run 6 miles a day and want a running partner? Want a cat that wants to play with you and toys for hours and hours? Or are you looking for a couch potato pet… or somewhere in between? Energy level is one of the most important “matchmaking” elements. If you have older pets, saddling them with a baby or young, likely energetic pet may well make them grumpy, not more youthful. Match you and your household’s energy level to the new pet’s.
- Element #2: Independence
So many adopters are drawn to the pets who are up at the front of their cage, rubbing on the bars begging for your attention. Take the pet out and spend time with them. Do they explore the yard or room, or are they like velcro to your leg or lap? What kind of pet do you (and your pets) want? Velcro, independent, or in between?
- Element #3: “Je ne sais quoi”
This is the elusive element that so many adopters yearn for, the “je ne sais quoi” or “I don’t know what” but its something attraction that some pets inspire when we meet them. This is what people often think of when they think of “chemistry” with a pet. There doesn’t seem to be any scientific way to measure this element! Listen to your internal emotions, the feelings that you get when spending time with a particular pet. The human subconscious can often read clues that our conscious mind misses. Sometimes it leads us astray, so you have to decide when to listen! I worked as an adoptions counselor in a large animal shelter for 10 years, and saw the “je ne sais quoi” happen time and time again. It might be the first pet the person met, or the 10th.
There should be no rush when you are looking for chemistry with your future pet. Take your time in picking a pet to adopt, so that you’ll be willing to work through the inevitable bumps as the pet gets adjusted to you and your home (and vice versa!) and you’ll be happy with each other for the rest of the pet’s life.