Too often, family and friends give dogs, cats and other animals as gifts for the holidays. Animals are cute and cuddly and it seems like a good idea, but it's really not fair to either the person or the animal. Adding a pet to a household should not be taken lightly.
It's all too common for people who really didn't want pets to dump the unwanted animals off at animal shelters after the holidays. Some just didn't realize the time and expense involved. Others hold onto the pet for a year or two and then, due to a change in situation, give up the pet because it's no longer "convenient."
Here are some serious things to consider if you're thinking of giving a pet as a gift.
Not fair to the animal
- Coming into a new household is frightening and stressful for an animal at any time of year, but especially so during the hustle and bustle of a holiday season.
- Adjusting to a new home requires a lot of time, patience, attention and a calm household, all of which may not be present during the holidays.
- The animal might eat poisonous chemicals, foods, plants or decorations abundant during the holiday season.
- With the visiting of guests and all the confusion of the holidays, a new pet might accidentally escape through an open door. Once outside, the animal might be frightened, lost forever, injured or even run over by a car.
- The person or family may be traveling during the holidays. Getting a pet sitter right from the start is confusing to the animal.
- Giving a young pet as a gift to an elderly person may mean the pet will outlive its owner, leaving the animal homeless and in a frightening new situation without the familiar and loving caretaker.
- Does the person plan a family in the future? Perhaps a new baby in the family would leave the pet out in the cold.
- Since the animal was not the owners' choice, it might end up being abused or abandoned over time.
Not fair to the human
- With good care, a pet can live up to twenty years. Shouldn't the recipient have a say in the selection of a furry family member that might live that long?
- Perhaps the gift is for a child who really wants a pet, but the ultimate care and financial responsibility will fall to the parent. For this reason, the parent needs to be involved in the decision.
- Perhaps the person doesn't have the financial means to support a pet.
- Proper care and attention of a pet takes time. The person's personal or work schedule may not be appropriate for a pet.
- Adding a pet to a household will involve a change of lifestyle as well as risk of damage to household furnishings (broken and chewed objects, peeing, making noise, fur around the house). Are you sure the person is willing to accept these facts?
- Is the person willing to take on the multitude of additional chores involved with being a pet owner?
- Is the person in a rental where animals are not allowed, or is there an additional monthly fee?
- Have you considered that maybe that person just doesn't want a pet?
Instead of a living gift
You've checked thoroughly and know the person wants a pet and realizes the responsibilities involved. Giving the pet during the holidays is still not fair to the animal and still NOT a good idea. (Reread the reasons above.) Don't be in such a hurry. Here's what you can do instead…
- Have the gift be a stuffed animal or framed photo of the type of cat or dog you'd like to give. Include a note explaining how the stuffed animal or photo is a chit for a live pet you can look for together after the holiday.
- Give a gift certificate to the local Humane Society or your local no-kill shelter. Include a note of your intentions in the gift. If the person doesn't want a pet, the gift certificate can instead be a donation in that person's name.
- Put together a gift box of items the future pet owner will need (pet bed, food bowls, brush, collars, toys). Once they open the box, you can explain how the live portion of the gift will come after the holidays.
Pets are truly a gift of love we give to ourselves, but if we want to share that love with others, we need to have them involved. Give your well-thought out "Instead" gift, and then let the person select their life-long friend for themselves when the time is right.
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