Plan ahead when bringing pets home for holidays

Giving a pet as a Christmas gift is an innovative and wonderful idea, but pet counselors at Petland say you must plan ahead if you intend to give someone a puppy, kitten, bird, fish or small animal over the holidays.

“Christmas Day is not the best day to introduce a new pet into the family,” said Darcy Howen, operator of the Petland store in the North CherryVale Mall Drive Shopping Center in Rockford. “Young pets are like babies, and they need some time and extra attention to adjust to the family routine.”

Generally, Christmas Day involves numerous visitors and activities at home and little time to spend caring for a new pet or setting up a new aquarium. Therefore, Petland recommends introducing a new pet into the household a little before or after Christmas.

“If a pet is brought into the home a week or so before the holiday, it has time to adjust to the family,” said Howen, noting that housebreaking, exercising and feeding routines will be easier to initiate in a less hectic environment.

Surprise not always best

Anyone wanting to surprise someone with a pet over the holidays should make sure the intended recipient really wants a pet. According to Petland, most pets live many years and require daily care.

Howen said: “Surprising someone with a pet they may not want is not recommended. At Petland, we’re all about the human-animal bond, and making the right lifelong match between pet and owner is very, very important to the success of their long-term relationship.”

However, fathers, mothers and others who have done their homework, taking the time to decide upon the right pet for the person or for the family household, might enjoy surprising their children over the holidays with a puppy, kitten, bird, small animal or aquarium full of fish. Petland says planned introductions are best for the pets.

Properly introducing a pet on Christmas

There are alternatives for gift-givers who want to give someone a pet on Christmas morning. Petland suggests picking out a new pet a few days before Christmas, but waiting a day or so after the holiday to pick up the pet. Then, what can be placed under the Christmas tree?

“A gift-wrapped photograph of your new pet will satisfy curious family members and even create some anticipation and excitement,” said Howen.

Petland also recommends purchasing a book, detailing the care the new pet will need. The book could be read and discussed by the whole family on Christmas Day. Gift-wrapping toys, grooming aids and food for the new pet are recommended, too, along with Petland gift certificates that allow the new pet owner some purchasing choices.

Giving pets responsibility

If, for some reason, a family must bring the pet home Christmas Day, then Petland suggests keeping the pet occupied, well-rested and out of holiday traffic.

“Offer your new bird, kitten or puppy their own toys,” said Howen. “This will keep the pet from playing with or chewing on other people’s Christmas gifts.”

According to Petland, play is important for young, growing animals, but rest is equally important. Like a human baby, a young animal needs to sleep much of the day. For instance, Petland says a puppy needs a three-hour nap after just 30 minutes of vigorous play.

Holiday care tips for pets

Following are a few other tips from Petland to make the transition easier for families and their new pets over the holidays:

Refrain from feeding your pet holiday table scraps. Your pet’s immature digestive system is not ready for rich “people foods.”

Be prepared nutritionally. The most important supply is pet food, preferably the one your pet is used to eating. Your pet also should have a constant supply of fresh water.

Observe your pet often, making sure it is not endangering itself by chewing on Christmas paraphernalia—bulbs, lights and wires—that may be harmful.

Get acquainted with a veterinarian in your community and find out about emergency treatment procedures. Make sure someone is on call, if needed.

The local Petland store is part of Petland, Inc., a franchise operation with more than 190 quality, full-service, retail pet centers across the United States, Canada, Japan, France, Chile and South Africa. Petland is ranked among Entrepreneur magazine’s “Franchise 500.” For more information about Petland, visit the company’s Web site at

From the Dec. 20-26, 2006, issue

Enjoy The Rock River Times? Help spread the word!