Giving a cat or dog as a Christmas or other holiday present may seem like a brilliant idea. Cats and dogs can provide unconditional love, which many people need during this time of year. If you’re considering the seemingly wonderful gift of a puppy, kitten, or adult cat or dog this holiday season, be sure to ask yourself these 10 questions before heading to your local shelter!
1) Has the recipient ever owned a pet before?
Specifically, one of that species. Chances are, if they’ve had a cat before, they’ll know the basics of cat care and likewise for previous dog owners. If the recipient has never had a puppy or a kitten before, surprising them with a new puppy/kitten is probably not the best idea. They may love the idea of a new pet, but are in no way prepared for this new responsibility (both physically, with things like leashes, litter, and food, as well as mentally, with knowledge of training, an appropriate veterinarian, etc.)
2) Does the recipient have a regular work schedule?
Long, hectic hours are not ideal for a new pet–especially not a puppy. New pets of any species require a lot of time and care. Those who travel regularly for work or work a scheduled 50 hours a week will likely be able to expend the time and energy a new pet would demand.
3) Is the new pet just for the children?
If you’re looking to get a pet just because your small children keep begging for one, consider this: You will likely end up walking, feeding, cleaning up poop/litter, and caring for the pet. Even the most responsible youngsters need monitoring and some young kids will (as much as we hate to say it) get bored with the pet and not keep up on the pet’s maintenance. In addition to this, some breeds are typically not good with small children and many cats and dogs do not tolerate having tails pulled or being picked up.
4) Have you researched the breed?
Getting a Border Collie or Australian Shepherd for someone who loves to hang out on the couch and watch Netflix all day is not appropriate. As mentioned above, some dog breeds and some cats are not great with small children. Make sure that the breed and personality of the potential new pet matches appropriately to the potential recipient before moving forward.
5) Is their housing appropriate for their desired pet?
Yes, your grandma may absolutely love Irish Wolfhounds, but the apartment in her Senior Community is just not going to cut it for such a large dog. In addition to this, not all apartments, communities, and other rental properties allow pets. For example, some apartment buildings allow cats and small dogs, others do not. Certain cities may have breed-specific bans or the gated community your friends live in may not allow any dogs.
6) Does the recipient have time to properly train a new kitten or puppy?
Teaching your cat not to scratch up the furniture and how to use the litter box can be time consuming. Puppies need outdoor potty-breaks every 2 hours. In addition to this, dogs need training in basic commands (including sit, stay, wait, heel, etc.) and both cats and dogs need border training so they learn not to bolt out of the house every time a door opens.
7) Is the recipient prepared for the messes a new pet will bring?
Even the best behaved kittens and puppies will get into some kind of mischief. It may be chewing a shoe, scratching up the curtains, potty training accidents, shedding, or just the downright destruction of your kitchen in order to get to the treat bowl. Whoever is getting this pet better be prepared to clean up any of these messes as well as the Christmas tree that the cat is sure to try to knock down.
8) Do the recipients currently have another pet?
Surprising a family who already has a dog with a new cat may lead to a disaster. The same goes for any pet. Whether the recipient already has a bird, fish, turtle, dog, or cat, be sure to to do a meet-and-greet for current and potential pets so that the home environment can be safe for everyone.
9) Is the recipient financially ready to take on a pet for its entire life?
We’re not just talking food, water, and shelter here. We’re talking basic veterinary visits (complete with vaccines, flea and heartworm prevention, spaying/neutering, and fecal testings), potential diagnostic veterinary care (for various illnesses, allergies, cancer, and injury), toys, and clothing (many dogs and partially outdoor cats need sweaters during the winter months), proper legal licenses, and more. Depending on the housing situation, there may be additional fees or insurance needed in order to have a pet. Are you or the recipient ready to fork up the cash needed to give this pet a healthy and happy life?
10) Is the recipient emotionally ready for a life-long commitment to this animal?
A new puppy can live well into their teens and kittens may live into their twenties! Is everyone involved ready for that 20 year commitment? It is traumatizing for any cat or dog to be surrendered to a sheltered (or even worse, abandoned in a field) once the family realizes “it was too much work.” Cats and dogs are living beings with feelings and to go from a seemingly happy home into a shelter where they may even be euthanized is beyond heartbreaking. Do not give or take on a pet this holiday season without being fully prepared for that life-long commitment.
We recommend writing down your detailed answers to all of these questions and sharing the answers with all people involved. While we love the joy of surprise reactions to new puppies and kittens, making sure everyone is prepared is vital to that pet coming into its forever home.
Do you have any other questions about bringing home a new pet for the holidays? Let us know in the comments below!