ASPCA study: "Pretty" pups picked first

The ASPCA is set to release a study revealing that "physical appearance" is the most important reason pet adopters give for choosing puppies from animal shelters.

Cats, meanwhile, could rely on inner beauty; the numbers showed that "behavior with people" was the most important quality folks looked for in a feline.

The ASPCA conducted the research from January to May of last year, gathering information at five shelters nationwide. Roughly 1,500 prospective pet parents answered questionnaires about their chosen pets, and how they decided that a particular animal was the one for them. The organization hopes to use their answers to make better and more frequent matches between shelter pets and people; understanding what factors go into the adoption decision is extra-handy for the front-line shelter workers, who can then supply additional information and insights about particular cats or dogs that might not be immediately evident to a first-time browser.

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Dr. Emily Weiss, VP of shelter research and development for the group, welcomed the chance to "get inside the human animal's head" – and not surprisingly, humans often reported wanting a sign from a cat or dog. Previous research confirmed that animals who came to the front of their cages to greet visitors had a much higher chance of getting adopted, and the new study establishes similar findings. Adopters were asked, among other questions, "What did this pet do when you first met him/her?", and many respondents mentioned a specific social exchange – approaching, meowing, licking, and even jumping on or into the laps of visitors. Dr. Weiss noted that that kind of cue is key for the humans in establishing a connection beyond initial cuteness: "That interaction is important for the human animal—not just entertainment, but in choosing their next friend."

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Other interesting stats included the relative importance of age to prospective adopters – it ranked as the most important factor for kitten shoppers, while those looking for adult dogs ranked it much lower – and the fact that a puppy's behavior with people, while less important (and presumably graded on a curve thanks to a lack of training), only lagged behind other factors by less than a percentage point. Some of the stats appear below, and you can read the entire study here.

Behavior with people: 77.9%
Physical appearance: 65.6%
Age: 63.9%

Age: 78.1%
Behavior with people: 69.3%
Physical appearance: 62.8%

Behavior with people: 78.3%
Physical appearance: 75.4%
Age: 65.6%

Physical appearance: 76.8%
Age: 74.8%
Behavior with people: 73.9%

(Respondents were able to pick multiple reasons.)

How did you choose YOUR shelter pet? Did you select her because of her adorable little ears – or because she sat on your foot? How did you know she was right for you and your family? Tell us your tales of best-friend at first sight in the comments!

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