Shanghai Pet Adoption – Things to consider

Shanghai Living

So you’re thinking about adopting a pet, but you’ve got about a bajillion questions: Cat or dog? Big or small? And what about if you leave Shanghai? Local pet-shelter Paw Pals Animal Rescue volunteer Alejandra Vasquez and Jane Saw of animal rescue network Best Friends China share their tips on getting your home prepared for the arrival of your new four-legged flatmate.

The big questions before you adopt

What’s your plan?

A pet isn’t just for Shanghai, it’s for life. One problem shelters face is rehoming adolescent and adult pets left behind when people leave China, ‘Everybody wants kittens or puppies – not senior animals,’ explains Vasquez. Which is why one of the most important questions any potential pet-adopters need to ask themselves is: Can I commit long term?

While doable in most cases, leaving China with your pet can be complicated and requires a fair amount of pre-planning – rules and regulations can vary vastly depending on the animal and your destination country’s pet importation laws. For example, Vasquez advises, if you’re heading for the Americas it’s relatively simple and you can start planning a month in advance, whereas if you’re headed for the European Union (especially the UK), the process is much more stringent, more costly, and will need at least four months planning. And then there are countries that don’t allow pets to be imported directly from China at all, like Australia and New Zealand.

What animal is right for you?

One factor to consider is how your pet will fit into your lifestyle. It’s a no-brainer that any animal you take into your home is going to need a hefty amount of TLC, but, of course, some need more attention than others.

Saw explains that when it comes to dogs, ‘Everybody wants a puppy, but they require a lot of attention, training, and they’re very energetic – they need to be walked three to four times a day.’ Families with tighter schedules might be better off with an adolescent or adult dog with less energy and relatively fewer needs than a pup. ‘It also varies by breed,’ Saw continues. ‘Certain dogs like Labradors and Border Collies really need to run a lot.’

Another important factor is your new pet’s temperament – it should be personality over looks every time for a better long-term match. Try to go to adoption days or shelters as a family to see who you all bond with.

What’s the deal with your landlord?

Unless you own your own place, it’s important to ask you landlord or building management whether pets are allowed before you adopt to avoid potential issues later down the line.

Pet-proofing your home

Keep doors and windows closed or covered

Inquisitive creatures, cats and dogs are brilliant at exploring their surroundings, but not always safely so. If you leave windows in your house open, both Vasquez and Saw recommend that you cover them with mesh screens – and the same goes for front doors.

Be wary of toxic plants and other harmful edibles

Vasquez warns that there are a number of plants that are actually poisonous to cats and dogs that you’ll want to keep far out of reach. One especially devilish example are lilies, all varieties of which are toxic to cats – sometimes fatally so – and certain types of which are toxic to dogs, too. Other common poisonous plants (on a fairly long list) are tulips, azaleas and sago plants.

Saw recommends keeping your bins out of reach and emptying them regularly. Food waste like cooked bones, chocolate and garlic could cause your pet all sorts of trouble if discovered during an unapproved rummage through the rubbish.

Keep an eye on electric cables

Cats and dogs are known for nibbling, and sometimes there’s just nothing more tempting than a laptop to charger cord or lamp lead, which is why Vasquez recommends hiding cables out of sight where possible and covering electrical outlets to prevent shocks.

The essentials for…


If your day consists of a lot of time out of the house at the office or school, it’s important that you leave your pet with the means to keep itself entertained and active (otherwise run the risk of boredom and ensuing destruction). Vasquez recommends stockpiling interactive toys for solo play when you’re out and about, like puzzles, treat dispensers, durable chew toys and more. A cat tree or scratching post is also a must-have for cat owners.

Potty training

Every pet is different when it comes to toilet habits, but when training your pet to use pee pads or a litter tray, there are a few things you can do to make the process easier. Keep it clean – not only to help prevent odours, but because your pet doesn’t want to use a dirty toilet any more than you do, which can lead them to look elsewhere. For litter trays, Vasquez recommends using unscented, soft litter; and as well as scooping the tray every day, she suggests emptying all the litter and washing it out at least once a month. It’s also best to put your pet’s toilet in a quiet place to give them some privacy to do their business.

Buying pet food

Whether you go organic, natural or generic, the most important thing when buying pet food is ensuring it’s coming from a reputable source and brand. ‘The same problem of food safety that people can have in China also happens with cat and dog food. There are many fake brands and copies. It can be very poor quality,’ says Vasquez. She recommends imported international brands like Royal Canin, Purina Pro Plan, Go Natural or Applaws Pet Food, and suggests buying from trusted pet stores, Tmall, or highly rated Taobao stores.

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