Why You Should Adopt Instead of Shop

Learn about the important debate of adopting versus shopping and read about my personal experience with both sides. 

What it Means to Adopt

“Adopting” means you are giving a home to an animal that was previously living in a shelter or a foster home. The animal you adopt may have been surrendered to the shelter from a previous owner, found as an unhoused stray, or even born outside. 

Adoption typically involves an application, a meet-and-greet with the animal, and an adoption fee. This fee covers some of the medical care that the shelter provided during their stay, such as the spay or neuter surgery and vaccinations. 

If you adopt through an organization, you can expect that the animal is sterilized (spayed or neutered), up-to-date on vaccinations, and has a bill of generally good health. You can also expect to receive the animal’s detailed health history. 

There are so many healthy animals in need of homes that, if you wish, you can focus on specific sizes, breeds, or even coat colors when you’re looking to adopt. 

What it Means to Shop

“Shopping” means you are purchasing an animal from a breeder or a pet shop. The animal you purchase was likely genetically created with human-desired characteristics in mind, such as a friendly demeanor or a short snout. 

Shopping typically involves the purchase-price of a pure-bred animal and sometimes a meet-and-greet with the animal and the breeder. Examples of breeders include USDA-registered or other registered breeders, puppy mills, backyard breeders, and breeding catteries. 

When purchasing an animal from a breeder, you may be responsible for the bulk of vaccinations and the cost of the sterilization surgery. Often, the care and living conditions of the animals are not accessible to the general public, leaving the truth and a significant part of their health history unknown. 

Breeders also capitalize on the public’s interest via specific breeds and characteristics of cats and dogs, and they create “designer breeds.” These breeds, such as Bengals and Pomskies, sometimes have behavioral and congenital health problems (problems that the animal is born with due to their genetic makeup). 


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Any contribution is greatly appreciated!

– $6.00 allows us to buy a bag of litter
– $25 helps us buy 12 cans of cat food
– $100+ allows us to fund general medical procedures for any felines that we foster on our own

Thank you so much for considering a donation! 🙂

Any contribution is greatly appreciated!

– $6.00 allows us to buy a bag of litter
– $25 helps us buy 12 cans of cat food
– $100+ allows us to fund general medical procedures for any felines that we foster on our own

Thank you so much for considering a donation! 🙂

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United States Shelter and Breeder Statistics You Need to Know

Each year in the U.S., 6.3 million dogs and cats are brought into shelters, and only 4.1 million of these dogs and cats are adopted (ASPCA 2019). 

Some shelters, especially those run by the local governments, choose or are required to take in every cat and dog that shows up on their doorsteps. They are therefore overrun with animals in need of homes, and there is not enough space to house them, not enough homes to foster them, and not enough supplies or funds to medically care for them. 

Unfortunately, this cycle contributes to the 2.7 million dogs and cats that are euthanized each year in U.S. shelters (National Kitten Coalition). What’s worse is that these numbers do not yet reflect how many neonatal orphaned animals are euthanized, as they are often not counted or are counted with their littermates as one single animal (Tiny but Mighty). 

That’s 225,000 cats and dogs being euthanized every month, which comes out to around 7,500 cats and dogs being euthanized every single day. 

In one year, 2.6 million puppies (just puppies!) are born and sold by puppy mills. Did you read that? That number comes from one species, one specific age, and one specific source (The Humane Society of the United States). That’s almost 217,000 puppies born and purchased every month, or around 7,260 puppies born and purchased every single day.

There are also 9.9 million cats in current U.S. households that came from breeders or were bred by personal pets, but so far I’ve been unable to find any annual cat breeder statistics (The Humane Society of the United States).

What all of these numbers tell is that there are almost as many puppy mill puppies alone that are brought into the world as there are dogs and cats who are euthanized without ever receiving a home. This is a clear illustration of the overpopulation crisis. Our country does not have a need for the creation of more dogs and cats! There are already so many who need homes and many others who never make it that far. 

Comparing the Costs of Adopting and Shopping

In the vast majority of cases, purchasing an animal from a breeder or pet store is significantly more expensive than adopting from a shelter. If the shelter and breeder statistics are still sinking in, take a look at the financial comparisons below. 

Spay/neuter surgery$60 to $800Covered
Purchase price/adoption feeIn Colorado, $2500 for puppies and at least $500 for kittensFee-waived adoption to $500 
Vaccines$15-$50 per vaccine (an average of 3 vaccines are needed)Up-to-date vaccines are covered
Pedigree registration$38 through AKCN/A
TOTAL$688 to $3533$0 to $500
Information sourced from AKC Pet Insurance, local breeder websites, AKC, and Petfinder.

Why Should You Care About the Difference Between Adopting and Shopping?

Adoption saves lives

The bottom line is there are so many animals in need of homes. Those who don’t make it into their loving forever homes are brought into shelters or are abandoned. Some of them may die outdoors or are euthanized. 

Supporting breeders, whether they do it the “right way” or the “wrong way,” actively works against the insanely difficult and emotional work that shelters and rescue groups do every single day. One animal purchased from a breeder or pet store = one shelter animal’s life lost…if not more. 

I say that more than one life is lost because when someone adopts an animal, they’re essentially saving two lives at once. They’re saving the life of the animal they adopted by giving them a home, and they’re saving the life of another animal who can be housed in the newly-emptied shelter space. 

Shopping supports unethical and inhumane practices

Instead of continuing to offer my own conclusions, I’m posing some questions for you to mull over on your own. Take a minute to think about each of these and come to your own educated conclusions. 

Why would someone need to make money and therefore directly benefit from breeding pets? 

What could the money invested in breeding be used for instead? 

What are the impacts of designer breeds – both on our society and on the genetically-designed animal themselves? 

Click below to watch Kitten Lady’s video about French Bulldogs if you’d like to learn more about the issue of designer breeds:

Why should humans be the ones to decide that an animal should reproduce? 

Why should humans be the ones to decide that an animal should not reproduce? 

What factors are at play when considering the wellbeing of the animals who are kept for breeding purposes? 

There’s an overabundance of adoptable dogs and cats

As I compile all of this information, it becomes clearer that there’s simply no need whatsoever for more dogs and cats to be brought into this world. The overabundance causes unnecessary suffering and euthanasia every single day. 

If there is not a big enough demand for the millions of adoptable animals, who are we to intentionally create more supply?

This doesn’t mean that if you’re ready to adopt an animal you must avoid adopting a pure-bred dog. You can absolutely adopt pure-bred dogs that enter the shelter and rescue systems! Just because they were designed by a human and likely forcefully brought into this world doesn’t mean they don’t deserve a long, happy life. This does mean, however, that the more people support breeders, the more we’re contributing to the overpopulation issue.

Photo by Helena Lopes on Pexels.com

How to Leave Judgment Out of the Issue

Since you’ve made it this far, you might be frustrated by what you’ve learned, or your passion for animal welfare has been fueled. If you’re like me, you might feel helpless at first and angry at those who continue to shop for purebred or specially-designed pets. Maybe you or a loved one has supported a breeder in the past, and you’re processing that previous decision. 

Don’t whip out the pitchforks just yet. Trust me, there’s a way to act without losing your cool or coming into conflict with people you care about. 

Consider approaching this issue from the standpoint of gentle education instead of anger and ridicule. Maybe you or the people you’re thinking of simply didn’t know about this issue. It’s okay to not know something! After all, we can only change our actions when we learn. 

Share this post with others. Do your research. Talk about it. You might be surprised that by simply starting a conversation, small seeds of change are planted. If not, and you receive a lot of pushback, let them speak their truth. You’ve shared what you chose to share, and now it’s up to them to process what you’ve told them. 

My Experiences with Adopting and Shopping

My family adopted my very first dog family member, Nala, when I was three years old. Seeing her for the first time has to be my very first memory. I crouched down in front of a small, metal kennel. Inside were four adorable mutts: a cream-colored beauty, two black softies with white stars on their chests, and a reddish-brown pup with a dark snout and a curly tail. They all had adorably folded ears and the floppiest paws. Before I knew it, my parents asked, “Which one do you like?” I came nose-to-nose with the reddish-brown pup, pointed, and smiled. 

But…we’d been through this before. From finding free kittens at the pumpkin patch and begging for a dog since I could talk, my parents always said a resounding “no” in the end. To my surprise, on Christmas morning, the puppy I pointed to popped out of a giant box that was lovingly wrapped and placed near the tree.

As Nala matured, my family felt ready for a second dog. My parents saw a listing for a litter of puppies online and within a matter of days, they’d purchased him suspiciously cheaply from a breeder. 

Supposedly, the breeder was unaware that the female dog he purchased for breeding purposes was already pregnant. He wanted nothing to do with the resulting puppies and was looking forward to breeding the female as he intended. When the deal was done, my parents asked to see the puppy’s parents. That option was quickly shut down, and out the door they went. 

After some time had passed, I remember watching a documentary with my mom about puppy mills. We learned about the horribly dirty, small cages the breeding dogs are forced to live in. We were saddened to see the comparisons of clean, fancy puppies that were presented to their owners who were never allowed to see the dirty, abused parents. This was the first time I’d heard about such a thing, and my mom brought her hand to her face in shock during the film. “Oh god…Do you think Tank’s breeders were running a puppy mill?” 

To be fair, we were never able to confirm this. However, I still believe that Tank’s mother was bought for unregistered backyard breeding, if not for use in a puppy mill. 

I was 11 years old when my parents bought Tank, but I tried to process this new information the best that I could. I understood that Tank’s mix of breeds were non-shedding, meaning that my family members with allergies could interact with him more comfortably. I learned that this is one of the reasons why my parents were shopping for specific breeds. But…what about Nala? We adopted her after she and her littermates were rescued from an abandoned house. Surely there were other dogs and puppies out there that needed homes like she did, right? 

It was a learning process. My mom and I discuss it to this day, almost two decades after the decision to shop instead of adopt was made. Do we regret having Tank in our lives? Absolutely not; he graced us with 15 long years of a hilarious personality and shocking intelligence. He was a good boy. But we’ve had to come to terms with the fact that by purchasing Tank from a breeder, we sacrificed the life of a perfectly adoptable companion who was waiting for a home and the life of an animal who desperately needed a spot in the shelter.

However, my family’s history with dogs taught me a lot. You don’t know until you know. Since then, any time I consider adding a cat or dog to my family, I choose to adopt. 

If you’ve made it this far into the post, thank you for taking the time to continue educating yourself on one of many important animal welfare topics. It’s a heavy topic, but the information is vital. The Kitten Koop has plenty more where that came from if you’re interested, such as the importance of sterilizing domestic animals, the impact of a plant-based diet and whether or not it’s right for you, and more…stay tuned! 🙂

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. Any purchase made through these links may help me earn a small commission.

Exploring animal welfare one foster kitten at a time

5 responses to “Why You Should Adopt Instead of Shop”

  1. […] Just one intact female cat can create up to 32 kittens in one year (Roice-Hurst Humane Society). TNR-ing one female cat reduces the number of kittens in need of homes and the number of kittens who will suffer and die outside due to being orphaned, injured, infected, and without loving homes. […]


  2. […] are unable to cope with these behavior changes. As we know, many animals brought into shelters never make it out alive, especially when they are exhibiting behaviors that scare humans such as hiding, hissing, biting, […]


  3. […] resources will be live on the website soon! In the meantime, check out Why You Should Adopt Instead of Shop and Should You Declaw Your Cat for more animal welfare […]


  4. […] nothing else, please spay and neuter your pets. The United States is in the middle of a pet overpopulation crisis. Municipal shelters and private rescues are already full of unhoused, unwanted, unhealthy pets who […]


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