Thinking About Giving or Adopting a Pet during the Holidays?
Reconsider the Timing
Giving a pet as a gift during the holidays can be exciting and fun — but these loveable and cuddly creatures bring numerous responsibilities along with excitement. Before giving a child, aging parents, or other loved ones a pet — especially as a surprise — the gift giver should be sure the pet will be welcome, well taken care of and loved for the rest of its life. After the initial thrill, the recipient will need to make a commitment of time and money to care for the new family member. Pets need vaccinations, licenses, veterinary care, food, shelter and adequate space for their size, all of which can be costly and a burden for some people.
Holidays are often chosen as the time of year to give pets as a gift. But animals, particularly small puppies or kittens, can become frightened or even injured amid the commotion. Plus the animal may already experience stress from being moved to a new home. Veterinarians recommend that new pet owners plan for an adjustment period in which the pet can experience a quiet, calm environment and bonding can take place at a gradual pace with special care and attention.
The bond between an individual or family and a pet is a critical component of successful pet ownership. Choosing a pet for someone else may compromise the potential for a bond to develop and could result in another homeless pet placed in an animal shelter. Veterinarians recommend asking the following important questions before choosing a pet for someone:
- Is the person allowed to have pets (by parents or landlords)?
- Does anyone in the family have allergies to animals?
- Are the person’s living arrangements compatible with the animal you’ve chosen? For example, a Great Dane would not do well in an apartment.
- Does the person want a pet? Is he or she committed to its long-term care (dogs and cats can live 12 to 18 years or longer, and some birds can live up to 75 years) and willing to devote the time and attention an animal needs?
- Is the person able to care for the pet physically and financially?
- If the pet is being given to a child, is he/she old enough for the responsibility of pet care? If not, are the child’s parents willing to take on the responsibility?
- Is the person prepared to deal with the special problems that can come with pet ownership, like fleas, accidents if the pet isn’t housetrained, chewed or scratched furniture and medical emergencies?
- If the person has other pets, will they tolerate a new family member?
The holidays are exciting times, but they can be especially hazardous to pets. For example, the tree should be securely anchored to eliminate it from toppling when the cat decides to climb it. Poisonous plants such as holly, mistletoe and poinsettias should be kept out of your pet’s reach to prevent natural animal curiosity from becoming a problem. Also, place candles out of a pet’s reach to prevent the candle from accidentally tipping over. And very importantly, make sure your animal is wearing identification tags, so it may be returned home in case unsuspecting guests leave the front door open.
Giving someone a pet could result in unwanted outcomes for both the animal and the new owner; however, a gift certificate to choose a pet along with books on different animals or breeds may be the ideal gift. Heed the advice of veterinarians and wrap up a collar, leash, toy or pet-care and training book with a card offering to purchase the pet of someone’s choice…after the hectic holiday season is over.