15 Reasons to Adopt a Pet

2. The Right Pet

"Appearance is what draws you in," says Kwolek. "But I wouldn't take home [a pet] based on appearance."

More important than color, breed, or size, a pet should match your style of living. "Some people think yellow labs are adorable as puppies and beautiful dogs. But a person who lives a sedentary lifestyle and does not like to go running or exercising should not have a lab," Buchwald says.

An important distinction between shelters and pet stores is that shelters are not providing their services for profit, and therefore they are more concerned about other factors, such as finding the perfect match between the pet and owner. Because they've spent time rescuing them and resuscitating them, most shelters know their dogs and cats well. Using various screening methods, they can help you find a dog or cat that fits into your family and lifestyle. For example, they know whether their animals are good with babies and toddlers, are active or more sedentary, independent or just need lots of love. Explains Buchwald, "Every adopter gets a write-up from 'couch potato' to 'marathoner.' And I can tell you which one of my cats are lap-cats or which one has a really high play drive."

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