Why You Shouldn’t Give Pets As Gifts This Christmas

Kate Barrington
by Kate Barrington
It seems romantic or adorable – the idea of an cute puppy popping out of a gift wrapped box. But unlike most gifts, live animals can’t be returned or exchanged if it’s not the right fit.

Nothing makes a better Christmas present than a fluffy kitten or a cuddly puppy, right? Wrong. There is a huge misconception that pets make great Christmas gifts when, in reality, the opposite is probably true. Your child might beg for a puppy for Christmas but you should think carefully before you buy one.

Reasons Giving Pets as Gifts is a Bad Idea

Giving a pet as a gift for Christmas may seem like a good idea at the time, especially if you know the person you are giving it to really wants a pet. Before you go to the pet store or breeder, however, you need to think about some of the reasons why it might NOT be a good idea. For one thing, the holidays are a busy and hectic time for individuals and families – do you really want to make them even more hectic with the addition of a new pet? You also need to consider the fact that pets are a long-term commitment. Many dogs live 12 to 15 years and, for a cat, 15 years is at the lower end of the life expectancy spectrum. Unless you know that the person you are giving the pet to can make this kind of commitment, look for another gift.

Related: 7 Sparkling Safety Tips For A Dog-Proof Christmas Tree

Unfortunately, many people view pets as commodity items – they are viewed as a new toy or something to play with. In reality, pets require a great deal of care and they can eat up a lot of your time. If you aren’t willing to take the time to properly train and care for your puppy or if you can’t handle a new kitten sharpening its claws on your furniture, look for another gift. Improper care and training for pets can lead to behavioral problems which, if not corrected, can lead to even bigger problems. Countless numbers of pets are given up to shelters or taken in for euthanasia due to “behavior problems” that could have easily been prevented with proper training.

Tips for Giving Pets as Gifts

There are many occasions when giving a pet as a gift is a bad idea, but there are some situations in which it might be the right idea. If you are thinking about giving someone a pet as a gift, consider the following tips:

Always Ask First

Never give someone a pet as a surprised gift. Even if you know that the person wants a pet, you need to be sure which kind of pet they want before you buy them one. There are plenty of stories out there of well-meaning people who buy their elderly parents a puppy to keep them company only to find out that they cannot care for the puppy – a kitten might have made a better choice.

In addition to the person that you are considering gifting a pet, make sure to think about anyone else that lives in the household. While a good friend may be super excited about the idea of a puppy or kitten, living in a house with roommate can lead to problems if the other people in the house are not ready for this kind of commitment. If possible, have a quick conversation with everyone involved.

Give Pets to Immediate Family Only

Buying someone else’s child a puppy or giving your friend a new pet kitten is not a good idea, even if you think they want one.

There are many situations in which a person may express a desire to have a new pet in the family without considering the long-term commitment that this involves. That is why it is so important to have the whole family involved.

Related: 6 Jolly Ways Exercise Will Help You Survive The Holi-Dogs

Make Sure They Can Care for the Pet Properly

Before you buy anyone a pet, you need to make sure that the pet will be properly cared for. If your elderly mother can’t physically keep up with a puppy or your wife doesn’t have the time to care for a pet, do not give them a pet as a gift.

You should also consider the financial state of those that are considering a new pet this holiday season. The costs involved with adopting a pet don’t end with the adoption fee. Take a moment to look at whether this person will be able to handle the costs associated with veterinary appointments, vaccinations, pet food, and the risk of emergency expenses.

Avoid Impulsive Decisions

Buying a pet is not a decision that should be taken lightly and it is certainly not something you should do on a whim. Deciding to purchase a pet is a decision the whole family needs to be in on.

If your friend or family member is mentioning the desire for a new pet for the first time, keep in mind that they may not be ready for the full commitment! Consider asking your loved one a few questions before paying that adoption fee to ensure that they are ready for the full commitment.

Wait Until the Holidays are Over

When things start to quiet down in January and February, have the whole family sit down and discuss everything involved with the new addition. Then, do your homework, get all the supplies you need and head down to the local shelter to adopt a cat or dog.

Consider a Gift Certificate or Note Promising a Future Adoption

If you are considering gifting a friend or family member a new pet, but aren’t sure whether this is the right time, consider gifting a gift certificate or note of adoption from your local animal shelter or rescue organization. Most organizations will be more than excited to work with you on this knowing that it has a higher success rate as it ensures that the individual can adopt when ready and choose the best pet for their family.

There are many factors that go into selecting the best pet for a family. This includes choosing the right breed, age, activity level, and more. By gifting your friend or family member with a gift certificate to a local rescue organization, you are promising to pay the adoption fee for the right pet when that ‘right’ pet is found. This can happen quickly after the holiday season or, in some cases, it could take a few months.

This approach to ‘gifting a pet’ focuses on a specific point regarding animal adoption that should be on the forefront of any animal lover’s mind – Every pet is an individual! Before bringing a new family member into the family, take the time to take note of the space available, the time you have to dedicate to your new family member, the breeds that best fit your family’s lifestyle, and the life stage of the dog that you are considering. If you aren’t close enough to the friend or family member to have all these answers before making a choice, a gift certificate or a note promising to pay the adoption fee with an organization is a great way to ensure that these factors are taken into consideration.

Many shelters and organizations don’t offer gift certificates for their services. Don’t let this discourage you! Instead, write a letter to your friend or family member expression your intention and you can make the arrangements for the adoption fee when the right pet is found.

Before you buy that fluffy puppy in the window at the pet store as a Christmas gift for your child or loved one, think carefully about whether it is really the right choice. Tragically, countless pets given as holiday gifts end up in the shelter system and many of them never end up finding a new home. If you do decide to give a pet as a gift, put the time and forethought into the decision.

Kate Barrington
Kate Barrington

Kate Barrington is the loving owner of two cats (Bagel and Munchkin) and a noisy herd of guinea pigs. Having grown up with golden retrievers, Kate has a great deal of experience with dogs but labels herself a lover of all pets. Having received a Bachelor's degree in English, Kate has combined her love for pets and her passion for writing to create her own freelance writing business, specializing in the pet niche.

More by Kate Barrington