We have all seen the shows or commercials when the kids go running into the living room on Christmas morning and there is a puppy underneath the tree with a bow around its neck or a kitten in a stocking. It tugs at our heartstrings. How about giving or receiving a cute little baby bunny at Easter or maybe a chick or two? Have you ever thought about giving a pet as a gift for a holiday or birthday? While it is true that pets are wonderful companions and can give us so much joy, it is also a life-long commitment as well as expense. These expenses can include: food, bedding and toys, veterinary care, grooming, and boarding/pet sitting.
Many times pets given as a gift are impulse buys and not well thought out or planned. Many young children are not ready for the responsibility of pet ownership and the responsibilities will fall back on the parents. Older teens are normally more focused on spending time with sports and friends rather than spending time to care for a new pet. Many will be going off to college and cannot take their pets with them. Pet ownership does provide positive benefits on the health and emotional well being of pet owners, but we encourage you to think about pet ownership as a full time commitment before rushing out to purchase a pet as a holiday gift.
Here are some things to consider when deciding to purchase of a pet as a gift during the winter holidays:
1. The holidays are crazy enough. The holiday season is often the busiest time of the year for most people. There is extra shopping, cooking, visiting friends and relatives. It is hard to devote the time and attention a new pet requires.
2. The weather outside is frightful. New puppies or dogs will need to be house trained, and with the weather being cold and snowy, not many people will want to spend the extra time outside.
3. Pets are not toys. Pets should not be put in the same category as toys that children get for the holidays or their birthday. Toys can be played with and put away; pets cannot be put away. They require regular attention and time. If you travel during the holidays, what will you do with your new puppy that may be too young to board at a kennel?
4. Pet stores, backyard breeders and puppy mills. In the weeks leading up to the holidays, many pet stores seem to be bursting with the latest designer breeds. Many of these puppies come from backyard breeders and puppy mills, with the majority being in poor health and born in inhumane conditions.
5. Puppies and kittens grow up. Remember that the cute little ball of fur that you purchase today will not stay that way. While they are adorable now and small enough to fit into a basket or stocking, they soon outgrow these containers. Be sure you know how big this new bundle of joy will be as an adult.
6. I do not think I want a pet. Did you have a conversation with the person you are giving the pet to? Are you sure they want a pet? It is better to have this conversation ahead of time so that the animal does not end up needing to be re-homed or end up in a shelter.
These are a few reasons that giving a pet of your choice to someone else during the holidays may have some unexpected consequences. Pets are wonderful companions and research indicates that they are beneficial to humans in many ways. Sometimes, however, it is better to let the gift receiver be involved in the decision about pet ownership. So, if you are eager to introduce someone to a new friend, here is another way to gift a pet when the time is right:
Give a gift certificate. You can go to a local shelter and purchase a gift certificate or you can make one up yourself for the amount of the adoption fee. Then after the holidays when things have settled down, everyone will be ready to welcome a new pet into your home.
Courtesy of the ASPCA and PAWS