Pets as Holiday Gifts

by Barbara Murray

So, you're thinking about or have already decided to give someone on your gift list a pet this holiday season. Personally, I can think of nothing more adorable than a kitten or puppy. However, I would ask you to stop and think this through to the end. I can give you many many reasons to own a pet and at the same time tell you giving someone a pet as a present is not always the best thing.

Adult cat wearing a Christmas hatAnyone that knows me well knows that I love all animals and that I think to have pets in your life every day is the ONLY way to live. The pure joy from having pets in my life is hard to describe in words. Do I wish everyone could have this experience? Definitely yes. Do I think everyone should be a pet owner? A resounding NO.

Some people simply do not have the lifestyle to incorporate a pet into his or her daily routine. Others don't like animals and although I don't understand that at all, I respect each person's right to feel how they feel. Then you have that group of people, thankfully a small minority, that are simply not responsible enough to own pets. It's a big commitment, as any pet owner can verify.

So, if you're thinking about giving someone on your Christmas/Kwanzaa/Hanukkah list a dog, ask yourself these questions and try to answer objectively. If you cannot be objective, ask someone whose opinion you value to help you answer the questions.

First, and most important, does the person want a pet? Second, is he or she ready for this long-term commitment and daily responsibilities that go with pet ownership?

Is the individual active enough to take care of a pet? If you're getting a dog, does the person on your gift list have ready access to areas where the dog can exercise? If not, will the person walk the dog daily? Many dogs need to be exercised multiple times each day and require a structured walk whether or not a fenced-in area is available. Does the person's work or school schedule make this possible?

Are other animals or small children in the household? This is extremely important. Not all pets get along well with other animals and oftentimes too, small children and pets cannot live comfortably in the same household for various reasons. For example, I have a rather large dog, named Moose, who seems to detest small children for no apparent reason. His behavior has always been unpredictable and it only takes a few seconds for a tragedy. Therefore, I've never allowed him to get close to a child because I don't trust him. When he is out in his fenced-in yard and sees a child, he becomes vicious and tries to get through the fence. If I had children in my house daily, Moose would have to remain crated the majority of his entire life. Not a good situation.

Is the person's household large enough to accommodate a large dog? If not, you might want to consider a small dog or a cat.

Does the person have the financial means to care for a pet? Whether you choose a cat or a dog, he or she is going to need food, toys, treats, bedding, possibly a crate, and veterinarian services, among other expenses.

Where to Get That New Pet

If objective answers to these questions all lean positively toward pet ownership and you're determined to give someone a pet, please go to your local shelter first. I'm a strong advocate of adopting shelter animals and strongly opposed to breeding animals for profit. The cost of adoption is not much. Consider adding a "first vet visit" to the gift.

My local shelter ensures that cats and dogs ready for adoption are up-to-date on vaccinations and are spayed or neutered, whichever applies, before allowing the animal to go to its forever home. Still the pet will need annual checkups and likely more vaccinations or boosters along the way.

You can take the animal yourself but I would recommend making arrangements with a local veterinarian to prepay for that first wellness visit and allow the pet owner to go. Establishing a relationship with a veterinarian of the pet owner's choice is a must.

I feel like I should add this as a full disclosure. Last Christmas my niece brought Dylan to me as a Christmas gift. He was EXACTLY what I needed, the PERFECT Christmas gift, as I've written about earlier here. Thus, I'll say in conclusion that if you've done a bit of research and think someone on your list needs a pet, I'll just conclude by saying giving a pet for Christmas can be the best gift ever.

Read our related posts to help you decide:

Also, see our Resources for Pet Owners.

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