Finding homes for hard-to-adopt pets can be challenging. Hard-to-adopt pets include black animals, senior pets, common breeds, mixed breeds, pets with medical problems and pets with behavioral issues. Here are some tips for helping your adoption-challenged pet find the perfect forever home.
Taking the Best Adoption Photo
The pet profile photo is the first and most important thing that adopters look at when deciding if they want more information about your pet. While posed photos with a professional pet photographer and a pretty background can look nice, candid shots often come across better. Taking an appealing pet photo doesn’t require a fancy digital camera. Simply taking your cell phone with you and using it to take candid shots often results in great pictures.
Dogs tend to look best when photographed in bright sunlight. So to take good dog photographs, take your dog outside into the backyard and follow him around as he plays, stopping to take pictures whenever he pauses for a moment. If your camera is fast enough, go for some action shots too.
For a great example of a candid outside play shot, check out Samantha the German Shepherd/Pyrenees mix. Sometimes nature makes the best background as in Madison, Addison, Mary, and Molly’s pictures.
Cats can be more difficult to photograph. For skittish or shy cats, turn the sound off on your cell phone and when you spot a cat in a cute pose, casually point your phone in the cat’s direction. Stare intently at the screen and push buttons as if you are sending a text message. Zoom in as much as you can and with no sound, the cat will have no idea that you are taking a picture. These cute pictures of semi-feral cat, Elena, were taken using this method. See the attached slideshow for more photo examples and tips.
Writing an Appealing Profile
Before writing your hard-to-adopt pet’s profile, take a moment to pause and imagine that you are this pet’s perfect adopter. Imagine that you love everything good about this pet and that you are willing to overlook the pet’s faults. Now try to write the profile from that perspective.
First describe everything positive that you possibly can about the pet. Is it pretty? Does it have a fluffy or soft coat? It is housetrained or litter-trained? Does it shed very much? For a dog, does it walk well on a leash? Does it chew on things? Is your pet comfortable with children, cats or dogs? Is it playful?
Next, consider all of the animal’s faults and think of ways to restate them positively. For example, rather than say that your foster dog is a “nuisance barker”, you can say that he “is a good protector, quick to bark at any stranger who approaches his yard.” Instead of saying that a cat is “semi-feral”, you can say “she prefers the company of other cats to people and is not a lap cat.”
It is important to be completely clear with potential adopters about all of your foster animal’s good points and bad points before the adoption is finalized, but the goal of the pet profile should be to get the adopter excited about what a wonderful animal you have. Once they have decided how much they want your pet, they can discuss the details with you as to whether it would actually work out or not.
If your pet has a highly desirable trait such as being good with children or being snuggly, then highlight this in a visible location like the name line. Healing Hearts Animal Rescue was flooded with emails when we listed Serenity as “Serenity loves kids” and ultimately found the perfect forever home because she was listed on Petfinder.com with that headline, even though she is not fully housetrained.
As a catchy alternative to standard profiles, try rewriting your pet’s profile in first person. Halle’s profile is a great example of how this style, combined with positive reversal of negative traits can make a semi-feral cat sound like a cat anyone would want to bring home:
“My name is Halle. I am a sleek and sassy little black and white tuxedo girl with a cute little black smudge on my nose. My foster mom says I might be part Siamese because I am full-grown now and yet I am still so slender and dainty. I am a very unique kind of therapy cat. I specialize in cat-to-cat therapy. Do you have a cat or kitten who is feeling lonely or sad? I am the most loving cat you will ever meet when it comes to sharing a little snuggle with a lonely feline. Every cat and kitten here at Healing Hearts stops to share a snuggle with me whenever we pass each other. You could really call me the Snuggle Queen. Just check out the cute picture of me getting snuggly with my friend, Simba!
I’m really feeling very relaxed and comfortable here at Healing Hearts, though I am very shy around new people. I’m not a lap kitty, no time for that! I’m too busy checking on all my kitty friends and making sure they’ve gotten all their daily hugs and snuggles! I do appreciate the finer things in feline life like tasty canned food and a soft cat bed to sleep in. But really I’m a lady of simple tastes. And I’m always on the job! So if you have a sad or lonely kitty who badly needs a loving friend, just call me up at (615) 290-2454 and ask for Halle. I am four years old now and have done all of that vet stuff. You can also reach my foster mom at email@example.com.”
Reaching out to Seniors
Senior citizens make some of the best adopters. Since seniors spend much of their time at home, they are often more willing and able to care for pets with special needs such as deaf pets, blind pets, or dogs with separation anxiety. However, many seniors do not have access to the Internet, so sometimes you have to take a little extra time to reach out to them.
Many seniors live in apartments or senior communities that have specific guidelines concerning pet ownership. Most facilities require that all pets be spayed or neutered, up to date on vaccinations, have no communicable diseases, and no bite history. Many also have a weight limit of 30 lbs for dogs. If you have foster cats or small dogs who would do well with a senior adopter, stop by local senior apartment communities and leave flyers on their bulletin boards with your pets’ pictures and information.
For larger dogs who would do well with a senior adopter, stop by your local senior center and post flyers on their community bulletin board. Many seniors also live out in the country with plenty of land for a dog to enjoy and no limitations on a dog’s size or breed. To encourage seniors to adopt, offer a reduced adoption fee to adopters who are retired or disabled.
For pets who may have difficulty adjusting to a new home, such as pets with behavior issues, deaf pets or blind pets, it is always helpful to suggest to a potential adopter a foster-to-adopt option. In this type of program, the adopter usually pays part of the adoption fee ahead of time, signs a special foster-to-adopt contract, and agrees to foster the animal for a specific period of time, such as two weeks.
This gives the new family time to see if the animal gets along with their current pets and family members, and if the pet is going to be able to adapt well to their schedule and lifestyle. If the transition goes well, the new family can pay the remainder of the fee and keep their new pet. If there are problems that cannot be resolved with help from the rescue, then the pet can go back into regular foster care and look for a new home.