Giving a pet can be a wonderful idea but, there are some things we encourage you to consider before giving someone a pet as a gift.
- No surprises! Don’t give a pet as a surprise gift. We recommend the giving of pets as gifts only to people who have expressed a sustained interest in owning one. As exciting as it would be to see a child’s face light up when they are surprised by that new pet, always make sure that the person or family wants a pet before giving them one. A pet is a great addition to any family, but they are also a commitment – of both time and money and no one should have a pet that they don’t want or can’t afford to care for. Also, be sure that you are giving the type of pet that the person wants. If someone loves cats and wants a cat or kitten, getting them a dog is not going to make them happy!
- Family or close friends. Its best to give a pet only to immediate family members or close enough to know that the recipient has the time and means to be a responsible owner. If the recipient is under 12 years old, the child’s parents should be ready and eager to assume care for the animal. These adults are the ones who will be providing food and health care for the pet, as well as teaching their child how to care for that pet responsibly, so you need to be sure they are willing to make that 12- to 15-year commitment that most pets will require. If the gift is a surprise, the gift-giver should be aware of the recipient’s lifestyle and schedule. If you give a friend the gift of a pet, they may not want it, but don’t want to hurt your feelings by saying no.
- Know the source. Even though it’s exciting to see someone receive their gift on that special day, make choosing their pet another special day. Instead, wrap a homemade gift certificate (we have them available!) or check for adoption fees and then plan a trip to your local animal shelter with your loved one to see what pets are available. They may connect with a pet that you wouldn’t have chosen – and this will make the person, the pet, and you happier in the long run. When pets are obtained from animal shelters, rescue organizations, friends, family or responsible breeders—not from places where the source of the animal is unknown or untrusted, if that pet is not a match for the home or family, or it doesn’t work out, makes it easier to bring them back, especially knowing that the shelter staff or volunteers will make every effort to find that pet another home. If it’s not the right pet for your family member you can have ease of mind if the pet they choose turns out not to be the right fit.
- Don’t forget the basics. If you know your family member wants a particular pet, include a gift box with the essentials they will need for their new pet. For a dog, this may be a collar, leash, food bowls, and some fun toys. For a cat, food bowls, some toys and cat treats are a good start. As for birds, they love some tasty seeds and a nice perch (and yes, I speak from experience!). Bringing a new pet home will be easier for your loved one if they have some supplies to get them started. It may also be helpful to make a list of other things they might need like the phone numbers of local veterinarians, any licensing requirements in their hometown, and information about local training programs.
Americans have a long tradition of giving pets—usually puppies or kittens—as gifts for special occasions such as birthdays, holidays or graduation, but there’s debate over how this practice impacts the animal’s welfare.
According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals’® (ASPCA®) who surveyed people who received a pet as a gift, found that the majority of these pets (86%) are still in their homes. Several additional studies found that pets acquired as gifts were actually less likely to be relinquished than pets acquired by the individual.
Rest assured, that giving (and getting!) a pet as a gift can be wonderful – as long as you do your research first!
Have a great holiday season everyone!