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Pet Adoption in Costa Rica

When I moved to Costa Rica, I brought my beloved cat with me. He quickly adapted to his new home, enjoying the constant sunshine and exotic wildlife on the other side of the window – but he was lonely. After a few weeks of adaptation, I knew we were here to stay, and so I put out feelers for kittens available for adoption. Within no time, I had several offers of young kitties in need of a good home.

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After fielding offers from several kind-hearted foster parents, I ultimately chose to adopt from my local veterinarian. Her name was Carolina and she had a heart of pure gold. She never turned an animal away from her door, and every pet to be adopted received discounted deworming, spay/neuter and vaccines. My kitten, who I named Coco, had been abandoned at just three weeks, so Carolina and I worked together to strengthen his tiny body and build his immune system. By eight weeks, he was as strong as any kitten his age and we had formed a tight bond.

Over the last four years, I have been reminded many times that while Costa Rica often reminds me of the United States, there are many differences that I must recognize and respect – and one of those is attitudes toward pets. Pets in Costa Rica are not always considered family members; street animals live in every town; it is uncommon for dogs and cats to sleep in bed with their owners; pets may live mostly outdoors; they may not make regular vet visits; and most animals are not pampered with expensive food, toys or treats.

Lest you get the wrong impression, from personal experience I know that many Costa Ricans are ardent pet lovers. When I first met my husband (a Costa Rican), he shied away from my kitties – one a huge, longhaired rascal and the other a feisty, needy kitten. At first, I wondered if he was nervous but I soon realized that he was not used to cats that expected such copious amounts love and affection (they’re spoiled). Within a month or two, my boyfriend had adjusted and the three were inseparable. The same has happened with my mother-in-law, who at first did not know how to interact with such shameless attention hounds. Today, she calls them her grandchildren and gathers them into her lap for cuddle sessions. Our cleaning lady, who doubles as pet sitter when we’re away, visits them twice per day – according to her, once is not enough! They adore her.

For me, opening my home to an animal in need has been one of life’s greatest joys. A pet shows loyalty, gives love, and is a constant companion. If you are thinking about making an addition to your family, I encourage you to contact local vets, adoption organizations, or animal rescue foundations. In the Central Valley, the San Rafael de Heredia Animal Shelter and the Atenas Foundation for Helping Abandoned Animals both rescue orphaned and abandoned animals, providing food, shelter and medical care until a caring soul adopts. Websites like are run by volunteers and foster parents; often, animals are spayed/neutered and dewormed before they are even put up for adoption.

If you can’t adopt, consider being a foster parent. Foster care usually lasts for just a few weeks, and if you can’t afford to purchase food, other volunteers may be willing to deliver some to your door. Finally, if you can, think about making a donation to your local animal shelter. Even a small monetary gift can help feed an animal or provide life-saving medical care.

Pet Adoption in Costa Rica in Pictures

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