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How to give a Pet as a Gift

Date: December 18, 2017

Since the holiday season is a time of giving, you may be considering giving a pet as a gift. A puppy under the tree would be so cute, right? Grandma doesn’t need any “thing” for Christmas, so why not get her a cat?

There are reasons why it’s a bad idea to give pets as gifts:
•Giving a pet on Christmas morning can be terribly stressful for the animal. Your kids’ excitement at receiving a new puppy could be terrifying for the puppy and start their relationship out badly.

•The holidays are busy and stressful enough. Do you really want to add to that stress by worrying about taking out a new puppy around the clock or worrying where the terrified cat is hiding, or whether it has escaped outside when the family arrived for dinner? Probably not.

•A pet is a life-long commitment and one that shouldn’t be decided by someone else. The person whose pet it would be should probably pick the right pet for him or her.

Giving a pet as a gift can be done successfully with a little forethought and planning. Here are some tips from the volunteers and staff at Friendswood Animal Control:
1. Rather than giving a pet as a gift, consider giving a “gift certificate” for a pet instead. Rather than selecting someone else’ lifelong companion, why not give them a gift certificate for an adoption paid for by you, from your local animal control facility or shelter? That way, there’s still the excitement of receiving a pet, but the gift recipient will have a say in the pet that’s selected. That will likely make for a better lifelong match.

2. Give the gift of pet supplies instead of the pet itself. When your kids begin unwrapping bowls, brushes and pet food, they’ll get the hint and they’ll be excited to go to the shelter and select a pet. Even better; visit the shelter before Christmas, take photos of pets that are a good fit for your family, and place those pictures in a gift box for your kids decide who they want to meet when the shelter opens. If you do this, be sure to let have your kids pick more than one pet they’d like to see, because the pet they selected may have been adopted when you get there.

3. If you do insist on giving a pet as a gift, be sure the recipient is prepared to receive it. Grandma may be lonely, but can she afford the cost of owning a pet, including food, grooming cost, veterinary cost, supplies and more? You don’t want a gift to become a burden. A pet is a commitment and you need to know if the recipient is ready and willing to make that commitment. As for giving pets to children, realize that no matter how many times your kids swear they’ll do all the caretaking for the new puppy or kitten, they probably won’t. Therefore, you’re basically gifting yourself a pet. Is that what you really want?

4. If you do insist on giving a pet as a gift, be sure you make an appropriate selection based on the recipient’s age and lifestyle, not yours. A large-breed puppy might be a great fit for your active family and teenagers, but not a great fit for Grandma. Big puppies can be hard to handle and Grandma may not be able to take a puppy outdoors to potty 12 times a day. Kittens may be cute and cuddly, but they tend to be scared of small children and with rough handling, can turn into skittish cats who run away every time kids approach. Kittens are also known for scratching hands and climbing up legs--probably not good for Grandma or your toddler.

5. Remember, when you adopt as a gift, YOU are the adopter, not the recipient. If you go to a shelter or animal control facility without the recipient, you are the one officially adopting and therefore responsible for the pet. If the recipient decides the pet is not right, you’ll be the one tasked for re-homing or returning the pet. Be sure you know the organization’s return policy, otherwise, you may just be adding a new pet to your list of responsibilities. Additionally, consider the impact on the recipient and the animal of getting attached to each other, only to have the pet have to be returned.

6. If you insist on giving a pet on Christmas morning, be sure you prepare your home, the pet, and recipients in advance. Here are some tips:

•Before bringing a new pet home, be sure you have a quiet, stress-free place set aside for the pet to acclimate to its new home.

•If you’re going to bring out a pet and surprise everyone on Christmas morning, be sure to tell everyone that they must stay calm, move slowly, and whisper when the pet comes into the room. Allow everyone to quietly visit with the pet and then put the pet back in its quiet place.

•If you’ve selected a pet that’s a little skittish, especially cats or kittens, don’t force it to become part of the excitement. Instead, take family members, one-at-a-time, to the pet’s quiet place to meet him or her.

•Plan in advance how your new pet’s feeding, pottying, and sleeping schedule is going to fit into your holiday plans. A new puppy will need to go out every two hours or so, therefore, you won’t be able to be away from the house for a whole day.

•If you’re going out of town for the holidays, definitely wait until you get back to get a new pet. It’s not a good idea to bring home a new pet and then leave the pet with a pet sitter. Your pet needs time to acclimate to you and your home.

If you have further questions, please call Friendswood Animal Control at 281-996-3390.