December is here. Christmas lights are twinkling. Stores are packed with holiday shoppers. Families are gathering. presents are wrapped and snow is falling. The world is full of joy… What a perfect time to give a pet as a gift!
Not so fast! It can be tempting to gift a pet during the most wonderful time of the year but this may not be in the pet’s best interest… or the recipient’s!
But who wouldn’t love getting a pet as a gift!?
There are so many homeless pets that would love a home for the holidays, it seems like a no-brainer. While this is true and there are many people of all ages that would love a cute companion for the holidays, a lot of responsibility comes with those little paws. This post will explore some of the reasons this well-intentioned present should be reconsidered.
1. Pets are expensive!
The cost of getting a pet ranges greatly depending on the source (reputable breeder or rescue), the pet’s age and other variables. The initial fee is pennies compared to the cost of a pet over its lifetime. While donating that adoption fee to a local shelter is contributing to a great cause, for example, the recipient of the pet will now be responsible for the costs of vet care, food, heartworm prevention, toys, insurance… the possibilities are endless.
In 2017, the American Kennel Club broke down the cost of a dog over its lifetime. According to their calculations, the large dog you’ve gifted your cousin may cost them $15,000 over 10 years! A potential pet owner should consider this carefully before committing to a pet and such a large financial commitment.
2. People are busy and pets need attention.
The world we live in is busier than ever and free time is hard to come by. Between long hours in the office, extracurricular activities after school, societal pressures, trying to balance exercise, a social life and sanity… many people do not have time to themselves, let alone to care for a pet (…in fact, this is exact reason is why we provide the services we do!).
“But Jess, how much time can it actually take? Throw some food down, fresh water and a couple potty breaks?”
Not quite. While the actual time commitment required varies greatly based on a pet’s species, breed, age and personality, you must consider the time it takes to exercise the pet daily, training, housebreaking, properly socializing a puppy, cleaning up after the pet, trips to the vet or groomer… it adds up!
3. Kids lose interest.
Gifting a pet to a child may seem like a great idea but kids can be tough. They are constantly growing, changing and developing new interests. While a puppy or kitten may seem like a lot of fun initially, scooping the litter box, having a puppy eat a favorite toy and potty breaks (especially in the cold winter!) can get old pretty quickly.
While we firmly believe in the benefits of children having pets, this is a decision that should be made as a family as many of the pet care responsibilities are likely to fall on parents’ shoulders.
4. The holidays bring chaos.
As much as the holidays bring fun and cheer, they also bring some serious disruptions to everyday life. Holiday parties, shopping, house guests, travel and so much more make this time of year anything but calm. Introducing a new pet in to a home should be done when the dog or cat has time to adjust to their new surroundings. Whether a pet is coming from a breeder and must adjust to life without its litter or is coming from a shelter and requires decompression time, a calm, well-planned introduction to home life is crucial.
The holiday season can also be particularly dangerous to pets. Poisonous plans, tinsel, turkey bones, ornaments and more can pose some serious hazards. This is something that should be considered before unleashing a teething puppy or curious kitten on the family holiday party!
5. What is the person’s plan for the next 10+ years?
Pets are for life – not just Christmas. It is crucial that a potential pet owner carefully considers where they want to end up over the course of years as a new pet will depend on them…. forever. While you may think your niece is settled down in her hometown, she may be secretly planning that move to Europe she’s been dreaming of since she was a child. A kitten can complicate this just a bit!
While of course it’s possible the recipient will be thrilled to pieces with their new companion, not considering the someone’s long term plan can result in feelings of frustration, guilt or a pet that finds its way into the shelter system. This is very likely not the Christmas give you’re looking to give!
Serious consideration should be given when deciding to give a pet as a gift.
This is just a short list of reasons why gifting a pet may not be in the pet’s or recipient’s best interest. Pet ownership requires a serious commitment of money and responsibility. While a gift giver’s intentions are pure, this is not a decision that should be made lightly and it best left to the potential pet owner to make on their own terms… not because they were handed a leash on Christmas morning.