As we already know, pets can be wonderful companions and can make great additions to our families–but only if we are ready for them. While the holidays may seem like a great time to gift a child, a friend, or a grandparent with a peppy new puppy or kitten, even the best intentions can sometimes be misplaced.
A new pet is a big commitment and responsibility, and not everyone is ready to take one on. Does five-year-old Sammy really know how to care for his new kitten, or will his parents take on the bulk of the duties? Is elderly Kate truly able to keep up with the energy levels of an energetic new puppy? Just because someone wants a pet doesn’t mean that they are fully prepared to care for one.
Before gifting someone with a cat or dog this holiday season, keep the following tips in mind. You can discover if giving a pet as a gift is in fact a good idea or not.
- Does the person actually want a pet? Many times, people will say they would like a cat or dog, but they say it in passing. You’ll know if someone is committed to caring for a new animal by her level of interest. Has your child been begging you for weeks to get a new puppy? Has she researched how to train, brush, and feed one? If she shows a deep level of interest, this probably means that she does, indeed, want a new pet.
- Don’t assume a pet will benefit someone. Just because a friend of yours is lonely doesn’t mean that he needs or wants a pet. And don’t get a pet to teach your child responsibility. Unless the person has explicitly stressed that he’d like a pet, getting one for him is probably a bad idea. Many, many pets given as gifts end up in animal shelters a few weeks later, simply because they were given to the wrong person at the wrong time.
- Have you (or the person wanting the pet) truly considered the cost? Pets can be expensive! If your child wants a puppy but is too young to be financially responsible for it, you will be in charge of taking Sparky to the vet, buying his food, treats, and toys, and taking him to dog training classes. And even if the person wanting the pet is an adult, has she really thought about the reality of pet care? It’s easy to get wrapped up in thoughts of playing with cute kittens or taking puppies on walks, but the financial cost of keeping a pet must be seriously considered before buying one.
- Does the person know what kind of care that animal needs? And is he committed to giving it? All pets need regular check-ups by their veterinarian, a quality diet, a comfortable bed, toys, and grooming supplies. Dogs will need training and cats will need litter boxes. All pets need playtime, exercise time, and attention. Does the potential pet recipient know and understand this?
- Don’t give a pet as a surprise. While it may be tempting to have a new puppy with a bow around her neck waiting under the tree Christmas morning, this usually isn’t a good idea. The pet can get scared with all the new sights, smells, and emotions, and the person receiving the pet may not know what to do (especially if he didn’t really want one). Instead, if you know the person is truly ready for a new pet, go with him to pick one up a few days before the holiday. That way, he can choose which pet best matches with him.
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When all the important questions are considered when getting a new pet and everyone involved is ready, a dog or cat can make a lovely addition to the family!