Is your son or daughter asking for a new puppy or kitten for Christmas? Are you thinking that a furry companion for your aging mother would be the perfect gift? Not so fast. Gifting a pet at Christmas time may not be a wise decision. Not that we are against pet ownership. On the contrary, pets enrich our lives in countless ways, and we don’t want to discourage adding a furry friend to your life. However, the decision should not be taken lightly or made on an impulse. Here are some important points to consider before you wrap up your pet purchase.
- Ask before surprising someone with a new furry friend. Your idea may seem like a perfect gift to you, but a bothersome burden to someone else.
- A dog (or cat) may be man’s best friend, but it is a friend for life—which means a commitment of 10-15 years or longer.
- Is your child old enough to care for or interact appropriately with a new puppy or kitten? Children under 3 typically aren’t old enough to understand how to play nice and could be putting themselves or their puppy or kitty in danger.
- Making your child care for a cat or dog is a good way to teach responsibility. However, make sure your child is mature enough to take on that responsibility. You’ll need to enforce the rules or be willing to take over the care and feeding of the new addition.
- Is your aging friend or relative physically able to provide the necessary care, or will someone be available on a daily basis to help?
- Involve the receiver of the animal in the process of choosing. Children especially will be more interested in and able to forge a stronger bond with a dog or cat that they help to choose.
- Consider size, age, exercise and grooming requirements, breed characteristics and other factors when choosing a pet. A rambunctious puppy or energetic border collie may not be the right choice for an older person with mobility issues. A 2-year old may have difficulty resisting tugging on a cocker spaniel’s long, droopy ears. A breed valued for its protective or guard dog skills might not be an appropriate playmate for a youngster. A Persian cat requires daily grooming, which probably won’t be a good fit for someone with arthritis.
- Pets come with a cost. Are you or the recipient able and willing to pay for food, leashes, collars, toys and veterinary care? Experts estimate in the first year of ownership a small dog will add $1300 in care, feeding, and veterinary services to your annual expenses and a large dog can add as much as $1800.
- Does anyone who will come in contact with the new pet have pet allergies? If allergies run in your family, there’s a greater chance someone will be allergic to your new pet. Take the family to a local animal shelter and have everyone pet and interact with a few dogs or cats to ensure you don’t have to re-home a dog or cat because of health issues.
- If you’ve thought long and hard about placing a new puppy, kitten or older pet under the Christmas tree, there’s one more thing to consider. Timing. Pets need time to acclimate to a new home. The winter holidays are a time of hustle and bustle, and it can be a tough time for any pet, and much more so for a new pet. If you’ve decided a new furry friend is a good fit, consider giving an I.O.U. or gift certificate to a local shelter. That way you can take your time choosing the perfect pet, then getting to know your new friend without the confusion and excitement surrounding the holidays. Along with the certificate, give a gift basket filled with toys, leashes, bedding or treats, and perhaps a book on caring for your new companion.
Seeing your child’s or parent’s eyes light up over a new furry friend is strong motivation for gifting a pet at Christmas. But make sure it’s not a snap decision that you or the recipient will regret. Returning or re-homing an animal is hard on everyone concerned, especially the animal. However, if and when you bring a new friend into your family, we at Powell Veterinary Service would love to meet the new addition and help get him or her started on the right foot.