It's the warmest part of a Christmas movie or commercial: a box suspiciously moving under the Christmas tree only to open it and find a tiny, fluffy, adorable puppy inside. Who wouldn't want a puppy or kitten for Christmas?
If you have a fur baby, you know how much love and joy they bring into your life, and perhaps you are looking to give that gift to a family member or close friend. But, before you do, there are some important things to take into consideration about gifting pets this holiday season
Don’t: Surprise people with pets
A pet is a lifelong commitment and surprising someone is a recipe for disaster. Surprising someone with pet ownership is not a wise decision in terms of finding the best home for a pet. The ASPCA recommends gifting pets as gifts only to people who have expressed a sustained interest in owning one, and that have the ability to care for it responsibly.
Do: Make sure the pet is welcomed by all members of the recipient's household
If your niece really wants a puppy and you can't tell her no, don't just buy her a puppy without talking to her parents first. You must consult parents, spouses, siblings, and so on before giving a pet as a gift. Remember, a pet is a big responsibility, and it typically takes more than just one person to care for it, especially if the recipient is a child.
Don't: Gift a pet because it fits with the holiday season
If you want to gift a bunny so your kids can have cute pictures at Easter, gifting a pet may not be the right choice. Our pets stay with us for their entire lives, and they deserve a stable, loving home and they certainly deserve more than being an accessory for a season.
Do: Rescue your gifted pet from an animal shelter or rescue
If you are close with the recipient and have spoken at length with the recipients about costs, responsibilities, and expectations of the pet, try to find your gift at an animal shelter or rescue. There are so many pets in shelters that can't wait to find their forever homes.
If you want to go the breeder route, make sure you find a reputable one. You should never get a pet, gift or not, from a source that is unknown or untrusted.
Do: Only gift pets to close friends and family
You should only consider gifting a pet to people you know very well, like your family and closest friends. It’s important that you know whether a person or family is actually interested in having a new pet before you gift them one. Things that need to be considered are their living conditions, how much they travel, their general lifestyle and any other major responsibilities they may have that would conflict with caring for a new pet. The last thing you want to do is gift a pet only for the recipient to not realize the responsibility or not have time to care for it and have to send it back to the shelter.
Don’t: Get snowed in with a pet that has to go potty
Depending where you live, winter can be cold, muddy, snowy, windy, and downright nasty. If you gift a new puppy for Christmas, the new owners will likely have to make several trips outside, at all hours, to take the pet to the bathroom.
Taking the dog out when it’s cold and snowing is a lot harsher than taking it out on a beautiful fall morning. It may be best to hold off until the warmer months roll around to gift a pet. Another benefit of waiting until it warms up is kids will be out of school and can focus on their new pet and help more with the duties (and doodies)!
Do: Discuss pet responsibilities with children
If your kids have been begging for a new puppy and you are considering gifting them with one for Christmas, you must have an important discussion about responsibilities beforehand. Some of the questions to go over include:
- Who will exercise the pet and how often?
- Who will feed the pet?
- Who will clean the litter box or pick up waste in the yard?
- Are your kids old enough to understand the responsibility that comes with pet ownership?
- Will you pay for the vet bills or are your children expected to chip in?
- If your kids are getting ready for college or you’re getting a pet with a long life expectancy, will the pet stay at home or go to college with the kids?
Do: Make a donation at a local animal shelter
If you have a family member that absolutely loves animals, but isn’t ready to take on the responsibility yet, prepay the adoption fee of a future pet instead! Many local animal shelters and rescues sell adoption-fee certificates that allow people to pay in advance and adopt a pet at a later date. The benefit of gifting a certificate rather than a pet is that you and the giftee can pick out a pet together whenever they are ready- and who wouldn’t want a say in which forever-friend they bring home!
To wrap it all up!
Before you gift a pet to someone, take a moment to “paws” and fully think it through. With some planning, a pet can truly be a gift that keeps giving, as long as the recipient is ready for pet ownership and the responsibility that comes with it. Remember, if you are uncertain it’s best to skip gifting a pet.