Zack Manko and his dog Sorcha give us some great tips on the pros and cons of gifting a pet for the holidays.
Pets as Gifts: Christmas Warnings and Suggestion
The holidays are a time for prayer, family, warmth, joy, and generosity. From meals and decorating to caroling and Midnight Mass, Christmas contains many traditions. Sorsha and I have a tradition of watching kung fu movies while we wrap presents. Speaking of gifts, for many people, this is the season for writing out lists of presents for family and friends.
The generosity element of Christmas means it is time to pick out some gifts for your furry companions and other loved ones. Many times, children are clamoring for the newest toy, video game, or device. Other times, their hearts are set on something more involved—like a new pet. Similarly, you may get it in your head that a relative or friend would just lovea new dog or cat for Christmas.
While the temptation to add a new furry bundle of joy to your (or someone else’s) household for the holidays and see their faces light up can be strong, don’t lock in that idea until you’ve considered every angle. Not everyone is ready for (or might even want) a pet, so instead of sparking joy and excitement, you might just be igniting a panic.
While you’re bundling up near the fireplace (or the fireplace video on Netflix) and snapping out those Christmas gift lists, Sorsha and I have prepared some considerations for your shopping season, should it involve a pet purchase.
Pets as Gifts—Dos and Don'ts
These simple tips will help you make the right decision this holiday season if you’re planning on gifting someone with a new dog, cat, or other critter.
Never give an animal to somebody as a surprise. This goes for your own household as well—don’t give a gift to your kids without telling your spouse first and determining whether they are ready for such a responsibility.
Pets are a major commitment in terms of time and money, and you may be unaware of certain factors. Maybe your intended recipient just started a new job and does not have the resources for a pet. Maybe they are allergic to certain animals. Maybe they don’t have the knowledge or capability to care for an animal. Maybe they’re secretly irresponsible and shouldn’t be trusted with a new pet. Maybe they’re a bird person and buying them a cat would end up . . . unfortunate for some.
After all, there’s a reason the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has a position statement about giving pets as gifts only to responsible owners.
Therefore, before purchasing a pooch or going on credit for a cat, make sure the recipient has the capacity and desire for a new pet right now. Just ask.
As a corollary to the first point above, don’t just ask the intended recipient if they would like a pet—make them part of the process.
Typically, purchasing a dog, cat, or other pet is a lengthy process. Responsible potential owners will research the source of these animals, and make sure that they don’t come from a puppy mill or other disreputable location. Additionally, by including the intended recipient in the adoption process, it will be easier for them to relinquish the pet if for some reason the adoption does not work out.
Furthermore, this strategy gives the intended recipient a chance to connect with an animal themselves. Rather than picking the one youthink is right, they’ll be able to pick one out that best suits them or speaks to their heart.
Picture this. You bring the fuzzy, furry new critter to the family, they all embrace the animal on Christmas morn, and you’re the hero of the holiday—until you leave. Then, the family is left with fido but no gear or supplies to take care of it.
Prevent this holiday crisis by giving a gift basket along with the new pet. Include basics like food and a food dish, a leash and collar, and some toys. A warm, soft bed is also a nice touch. You could also include some resources like information for local vet offices. You may also want to give a book on training or care tips.
Sorsha suggests you include some doggie treats for them as well, something meat-flavored—or better yet, something made of meat!
OK, you’ve done your research on the potential pet and potential pet owner. You’ve checked and double-checked all your bases. You’re just about ready to take the plunge and get that dog or cat as a present to put under the tree, but you still have some misgivings about moving forward.
No problem. You can still fulfill the intent of your Christmas gift plan with a simple modification. Instead of giving the pet itself, offer to pay the adoption fee for the intended recipient. You could even box up and wrap a toy plushie version of the planned pet, along with a card explaining your intentions.
This method is a “safe” strategy because if it turns out the intended recipient is totally unprepared or unwilling to have a pet, no actual animal is involved. You won’t be breaking any hearts or putting unnecessary stress and confusion on a prospective pet.
Finally, don’t rush just to make the Christmas “deadline” on December 25th. As mentioned above, the adoption process can take some time, so plan ahead and give yourself some time. If Christmas is coming up and you won’t have the pet in time, no sweat. You could write a card or gift wrap a stuffed animal toy as described in Step 4 above to explain your intentions.
So don’t let the holiday pressure get to you. If the holiday is fast approaching, don’t make any rushed decisions. Keep your call, take your time, do your research, and make the right decision.
Remember, even if you flub your gift ideas, it is the thought that counts. Be smart, gift smart, and have a great holiday season.