Today is National Adopt A Shelter Pet Day, and the message of this title is a strong one.
When you adopt a pet from a shelter, you don't just save the life of that animal, you enhance your own.
I will admit that when my fiancé and I decided to adopt a cat last year, I was enticed by pictures of fluffy purebred cats on social media.
What about the breeds made famous by the Internet, like munchkin cats?
It's easy to get caught up in the carefully-designed cuteness of purebred cats, just as it is to get swept away by purebred dogs.
When push came to shove, though, I could never bring myself to purchase a purebred cat.
It would seem downright cruel, considering 3.4 million cats enter shelter homes every year, and only 1.3 million are adopted.
It is often said an animal can win your heart in an instant; it's the only sort of "love at first sight" many people believe in.
When visiting a shelter, it's hard to resist the pangs that inevitably attack your heartstrings.
For some, it's almost impossible to leave a shelter empty-handed.
When my fiancé and I visited Gifford Cat Shelter just outside of Boston, we were inside for a short 20 minutes before finding our future cat.
We turned a corner and saw a fluffy, orange cat through a glass door. Somehow, we both simultaneously knew this cat would come home with us.
Upon talking with the volunteer at the shelter, we learned our cat (whose name was Tang at the time) was almost 2 years old, and formerly feral.
He had been living on the streets in a dangerous Boston neighborhood.
His left ear had been tipped, which is how shelters and vets communicate that the feral cat has been neutered.
Most feral cats are not able to be socialized or adopted, but this specific cat was.
Although he wasn't allowed near other cats, he was friendly toward humans, and spent most of our first visit nuzzling up to my lap and showing off his "biscuit-making" skills in his cat tower.
We were able to bring him home just a few days later, and we quickly renamed him Faramir, after our favorite Lord of the Rings character (geek pride).
Adopting a pet doesn't come without hard work, of course.
With adult pets, they are often hard-set in habits and not easy to break. In Faramir's case, he deemed himself a hunter, and everything, including our limbs, was subject to an attack.
Over the course of several months, we were able to train him (yes, it is possible to train a cat) to attack his toys, rather than feet.
Some may argue the emotion we sense from animals is a mere reflection of our own feelings, but I truly believe our cat is grateful to us.
We gave him a real home, and within 24 hours of his first day in our apartment, he was lying on his back, paws in the air, napping in patches of sunlight.
Whereas, many cats would find a dark place to be alone, Faramir never wanted to leave our sides.
He quickly became a part of our family, and it's painful to imagine he spent so many months on the streets prior to finding his way to us.
If you're thinking of bringing a pet into your home, do yourself a favor and at least visit a shelter before you make any decisions. Allow yourself to see the animals in person, view their living conditions and see for yourself how easy it is to fall in love with one.
You'll be happy you did.