There have been so many movies that portrayed taking in a stray animal as being a heartfelt moment that blossoms into an eternal friendship. To be fair, that's not entirely wrong, but it's far from the whole truth. Until you actually experience adopting a stray animal, you really have no idea what it's like.

Before you can even think about keeping it, you have to find a place it can stay in your house. The first time my family took in a stray, we already had a cat; the second time, we already had two cats. Space can be tight when you already have animals living with you.

And then there's the whole acclimation process. If you do already have a pet, your new friend and your old friend probably aren't going to get along right away. It's best to keep them separated so that they can slowly get used to someone else being there. Accidentally transmitting leukemia is another reason they have to be apart from each other in the beginning. That can easily take weeks.

We can't forget about a trip to the vet either. The immunizations have to be up to date at least, but spaying/neutering and/or declawing is are also very common. Those surgeries can leave your new friend at the vet for a few days, if done altogether, and the recovery time can frequently be up to two weeks.

All of this assumes you are a well-prepared owner that has had pets before. But adopting a kitten can be a whole other experience if it's the first time. They're spunky, feisty little creatures. They climb curtains, sharpen their claws on furniture, and chew everything in sight. They sleep much less than you do and want to play every time you walk by. Rarely do they ever curl up on the end of your bed like they do in the movies.

That's not to say you should never adopt a stray. It really can be extremely rewarding when you do, knowing that you're potentially saving a life. And when it all works out, you probably did make a lifetime friend, just like fiction depicts. But don't underestimate the effort going in.