One of the biggest issues facing animal welfare today is that for the first time in five years, people are searching for where to buy a pet as frequently as they’re searching to adopt one. With animal shelters at capacity and animal rescues being inundated with owner surrenders, a lack of adoptions has thrown us into a full blown crisis.

But all hope is not lost!

We know what potential adopters are looking for! April Huntsman, Director of Animal Welfare Insights for Adopt-a-Pet, shared her findings based on the research and surveys Adopt-a-Pet conducts. We’re here to break down the top 5 things you need to know to give your rescue pets the best possible chance you have for getting seen, loved, and adopted.


1. Up to 60% of potential adopters are searching for dogs by breed and up to 20% for cats.

We know. Breed is a very controversial topic in animal rescue. It’s nearly impossible to guess correctly, and beyond what a pet looks like, it really doesn’t matter all that much.

But that’s the point.

The general public are NOT animal rescuers. They don’t know that breed doesn’t matter. They only know about the type of look they envision when they picture adopting a new dog, or yes, even a new cat! By opting to not enter a breed in your adoptable pet’s online listing, you’re eliminating your pet from any search that’s filtered by breed. On the other hand, adding a breed (or multiple breeds) won’t stop your pet from showing up in a general search.

(This is also one of the reasons why pet listing sites require breed to be filled out in order to auto-list them through your animal rescue’s management software.)

So just take your best guess based on the looks of the pet, and increase the likelihood your pet will be seen online. You can always have the full disclosure discussion about breeds AFTER you’ve met with the potential adopter 😉.


2. Almost 75% of adopters are searching for their new pet by age range

When you include an estimated date of birth or even an age range in your pet’s story, you’re giving potential adopters both an expectation for the life stage your rescue pet is in, and also a life expectancy.

Don’t just assume all adopters only want young animals! The responses you get for your senior babies might surprise you! Consider adopters who are getting on in age themselves; they don’t have the energy to keep up with a young cat or dog, but they know they can offer the best end of life care for a sweet senior pet needing a warm home.


3. Names: Clickbait for good!

We’ve all fallen prey to clickbait before. Those ads for products that seem too good to be true, but we can’t help but gravitate towards it? Consider your pet listing like an ad. You need to get people to click on the listing so they can get to all the juicy details inside and fall in love with your animal rescue’s pets! Consider using descriptive words or titles in your pet’s name to act as “clickbait”, and don’t be afraid to get goofy with it either! 

pet listings showing a cat named one-eyed wilma and a dog named buddee victor voo

Keep in mind though if you do go with the lengthier, description-based name, you also run the risk of it getting cut off on mobile. Be sure to start with the pet’s name and add your descriptors after. For example use “Watson the Wise and Wonderful” instead of “The Wise and Wonderful Watson”. This way, even if the name is shortened, potential adopters will still see a name (Watson the…) instead of just words (The Wise and…)


4. Photos increase the likelihood of your pet being seen by 500%

This is the big one.

As animal rescuers ourselves, we get it. We know how busy you are, and that sometimes photos just aren’t a priority. We also know how hard it can be to get a pet to just sit still for two seconds to get one dang photo that’s not just a blur of ears, nose, or tail. What it comes down to though, is that we know it, potential adopters don’t. To them, not having a picture is inexcusable.

“It takes no effort to throw up a photo. If shelters don’t put up a photo, I assume that they’re not as invested and not well run”  ~ Anonymous Potential Adopter in an Adopt-a-Pet.com Survey

If you take nothing else away from this article, take this: Photos are crucial to pet listings! So here are some tips and tricks to making them better:

  • Make sure your first photo shows the pet’s face and personality. Save the artsy photos for the slideshow, people connect better with the pets they can plainly see.
  • Make your adoptable pet the focal point in every photo. If there’s a lot of background, crop your picture so your pet is front and center
  • Avoid cage doors if at all possible. If you’re taking a picture of the pet inside the kennel, open the door to take the picture. (But safety first! If you’ve got a runner, a cage door photo is still better than no photo at all.)
  • Try to get a photo on a rug or a couch, or place some props or toys around the pet. Just something that will help potential adopters envision this pet in their own home.
  • Try to get a photo of your rescue dog on grass! For dogs, specifically, these photos are the ones that get clicked on the most.

Pro-tip: If you host any sort of adoption event, group meet and greets, play groups, etc., have a QR code handy that directs to something like a Google Drive folder and prompt your community members to share any photos or videos they catch of your rescue pets being adorable!


5. Build a connection with your adopters through heart, not heartbreak

Last but not least, let’s talk story: your pet’s description. First off, forget the heartbreak. Gone are the days where the general public feels connected to the awful commercials with pets behind cages and Sarah McLaughlin singing in the background. It doesn’t resonate with adopters anymore because they’re overwhelmed with everything else that’s negative in the world. Appeal to their need for happy stories. There’s a reason The Dodo does so well!

Start with the good things about your adoptable pet and why someone would want to adopt them! Then go on to include all the information that people want and need to know:

  • When did the pet come into care or when did it become adoptable? This can give some adopters a sense of urgency if they see the pet has been with your animal rescue for a while.
  • Is this pet good with cats? Dogs? Whether you have or haven’t been able to test this, people want to know. So just be up front with what you have or haven’t witnessed.
  • Any current or relevant health issues or concerns (Avoid listing past issues! That’s the kind of information that’s shared with the pet’s medical history, not on their pet listing)
  • Include the adoption fee or your adoption fee range. People are expecting an adoption fee so it’s not putting them off to see it. They just want to know ahead of time what their commitment will be.


Nail these 5 tips and tricks in all your adoptable pet listings and watch as the views, clicks, and adoptions increase! And as a bonus tip for reading this far: save yourself a lot of time getting your pets listed across multiple adoption websites by using an animal rescue management software that’ll do it for you! Like say, Pawlytics? We heard they’re one of the good ones. 😉

The more animals seen, the more animals adopted, leading to more animals saved from overcrowded animal shelters.