The image of a loved one’s face lighting up upon receiving a sweet little puppy or kitten this holiday season can be heartwarming. But is giving a pet as a gift the right thing to do?
Traditional wisdom maintains that it’s never appropriate to bring a pet home as a gift, because once the novelty wears off, the animal winds up at the already overcrowded shelter.
However, a survey by the ASPCA suggests that the majority of the people who received pets as gifts thought it either increased or had no impact on their love or attachment to that pet, and these pets are still in the home.
Still, giving pets as holiday presents remains highly debatable. There are several factors to take into account when considering giving a pet as a gift. It’s crucial to know the people on the receiving end well.
• Commitment – It is unfair to give an animal to anyone unless you are absolutely certain that the person wants that particular type of animal as a companion, is willing to take on the responsibility for another living being’s life, and is able to give it a lifetime of proper care. If the recipient is a child, make sure the parents are on board with the idea and ready to play a large role in the care of the pet.
• Cost – Dogs and cats live an average of 14 to 20 years — that’s a lot of food, toys, accessories (leashes, flea treatments, etc.), bedding, and litter. Veterinarian bills can pile up from regular checkups and vaccinations, as well as if the pet ever becomes ill or injured. Your well-intentioned “gift” can be pricey for years to come.
• Health – What if the person is allergic? And can a child or someone elderly handle an active adult dog?
• Lifestyle – The recipient’s schedule should also be free enough to spend necessary time to help assure an easy transition into the home. Consider that new owners who are gone a lot, who like to travel, or who take lots of business trips will need to find someone to care for the pet while they are away.
Instead of putting a pet under the holiday tree, you could buy a toy dog or cat and display it with the other gifts. You could even include some of the equipment for the pet, like a carrier, leash, or bed. Attach a note or gift certificate to the toy, proposing that the recipients can pick out their new pet after the holidays. Acclimating new pets to the household takes time, and a crowded house during the holidays can be overwhelming to the pet.
If you are on the receiving end, do your research before you go to pick up your new pet. Get your family involved in deciding what type, size, and breed of animal you’d consider for your lifestyle. Then head to our shelter and check out the great selection of dogs and cats.
When you’ve done it right, you will likely end up with a long-time friend and companion. A pet that is wanted and loved will have a good life, no matter which of the 365 days of the year it comes into your home. Plus, you’ll be saving a life.