If you're planning on bringing home a new dog or cat, adopting an animal from a rescue centre can be a great option for both pet and owner alike.

Not only will you be giving a homeless mutt or moggie a second chance in life, but new owners will also get a chance to meet prospective pets first and get to know their personalities, which will help create a loving and lasting partnership.

However, it's important to remember that adopting an animal isn't always a smooth ride and it can take time and patience to find the perfect pet and help them settle into their new life.

Therefore, it really pays to be prepared before rushing out to the nearest animal shelter and taking your time to make any decisions rather than bringing home the first sad-looking kitten or mournful puppy you lay your eyes on.

Speaking to WedMD, Gail Buchwald, vice president of the adoption centre at the ASPCA in New York City, emphasises that the best way to ensure a happy matching is to do your research first.

"The biggest drawback is not knowing what you're going to get, but it's the same drawback with breeders and pet stores," she says. "Choosing a shelter that provides as much information as possible about the animal is important."

Once you've chosen an adoption centre or shelter where you feel comfortable with the way the animals are cared for and feel you will receive support and advice from staff, the next step is to choose the perfect pet.

Try and gain as much information as you can about your new four-legged friend, from their history and care requirements to the type of dog or cat food they prefer.

''This is up there with getting a car or a house; expecting to walk out the same day with a shelter animal may not happen. It may require several visits," Gail says.

"Making the commitment to adopt means you're going to help a homeless animal, even if it doesn't happen instantly.''

Written by: Hannah