Pet Talk: Pets as holiday gifts

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Giving an adorable puppy or kitten as a gift this holiday season may seem like a wonderful idea, but it is important to remember that pets need a lifetime of care and commitment long after the holiday season. Surprising your family with a new fuzzy friend on that special holiday morning is tempting, but be sure to first consider these facts to avoid being unprepared when bringing a pet home.

Giving the gift of companionship requires a considerable amount of research and preparation. There can be many reasons why a pet may be unsuitable for a home, such as if the receiver is not financially or mentally prepared for a pet. Dr. Stacy Eckman, clinical assistant professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, explained how pets can often come with hidden expenses. “Pets, even healthy ones, require a financial commitment for basic requirements, such as food, collars, and leashes, as well as medical needs, such as basic vaccinations,” she said. “Unexpected illnesses or injury may also add to that financial burden, which can be too much for some owners to handle.”

Other reasons a pet may not be an appropriate gift this year is if the receiver is allergic to pets, if the receiver does not have an appropriate place to keep the pet, or if the receiver does not want a pet or have time to commit to a pet.

Taking care of a cat or dog is a responsibility that is often simplified in the minds of children, but the reality is that pets need care throughout their entire lifetime. Giving a pet as a gift to children who are not yet responsible to care for it can lead to pets being seen as “play-things,” rather than living and dependent animals. Adults often take on the responsibilities of feeding, bathing, and cleaning up after the pet when the initial newness wears off. Sometimes adults are guilty of neglecting the pet too, especially if they were unaware of the financial commitment from the beginning. This can lead to many pets entering shelters for the remainder of their lives or until another family adopts them.

Although there are many reasons why giving a pet as a holiday gift can be a bad idea, a pet can make a great holiday gift for someone if the proper amount of research and preparation is done. If the receiver has expressed their commitment to a pet, proven their responsibility, and are financially and mentally ready for a pet, the gift giver must then consider the receiver’s pet preferences for gender and breed. Adoption is also a great option, especially if the new owner prefers an older dog or cat. Many pets are patiently waiting in shelters for a forever home, and the adoption staff at the shelter will be able to help you choose the perfect pet for the new owner.

Although giving a pet as a gift this holiday season may seem like a wonderful life-long memory for your family, there is a considerable amount of research and preparation involved in bringing a pet into a new home, especially if it is a surprise to the new owner. If the receiver has proven their responsibility and expressed their desire for a new fuzzy companion, be sure to consider their pet preferences as well as adoption.

Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University.

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