What better way to bring a huge smile to your child’s face on Christmas morning than to reveal a sweet puppy or kitten? While it sounds wonderful, adding a pet to the family is a serious decision that should not be taken lightly. Pets require considerable commitment: time, money, space, and more. Here are a few factors to consider before giving a pet as a gift this holiday season.


Does the recipient really want a pet?

Just because your whimsical daughter ooos and ahhhs every time she sees a puppy, doesn’t mean she truly wants a pet of her own. She may love being around her cousin’s little Maltese, but she may not want to assume full care of a dog herself. Before giving a pet as a gift, discuss the care and time involved with the entire family, and ensure the future potential caretaker fully understands her obligations as a pet owner.


What kind of pet is best for your family?

Do your research, and take the time to learn about the breed and species you’re considering. What size will the pet be when fully grown? Is the breed predisposed to any medical conditions? What are the grooming requirements for this breed? How much space will this pet need? What about exercise? Learn everything you can about your potential new pet long before you’ve committed to wrapping her up in a holiday bow.

How is the human-animal bond affected when a pet is given as a gift?

The early connection established between an animal and her owner is a key component of enjoying a lifelong relationship. When you eliminate the opportunity for a caregiver to bond with her pet prior to bringing the animal into the home, you risk the possibility of not seeing a mutual attachment. Surprising someone with the gift of an animal removes this initial chance to develop a relationship before a full commitment is made.


How much time will be required?

Dogs need to be walked regularly. Groomed. Picked up after. Taken to the veterinarian. Cat owners spend time scooping litter boxes. Grooming. Playing. Taking their cats to the veterinarian. Exotic pets have other needs that require a time commitment. Caring for a pet—no matter the animal—takes time.

A pet is not like a toy that can be tossed into a closet when the child is finished playing with it. Will the pet require exercise outside the home? Will training classes be necessary? Is time available for bonding, feeding, and basic upkeep? Is an adult in the home willing to care for the pet if a child forgets or becomes disinterested?


How much will the pet cost?

The cost of owning a pet goes far beyond the adoption or purchase price. According to the ASPCA, pet ownership expenses can add up to more than $1,000 in the first year and well over $500 each additional year. In addition to food, bowls, training supplies, collars and leashes, kennels/carriers, beds, and toys, pet owners need to consider the cost of veterinary care. A pet will need to be spayed or neutered, receive vaccines and preventive medications, and visit the veterinarian annually for exams. And, pet owners should plan for unforeseen veterinary costs in case a pet is sick or injured.

A pet is a lifelong commitment

A child may be ready for the responsibility of owning a pet, but the future should be considered. Some breeds can live for 20 years or longer. Who will care for this dog or cat after her owner grows up and moves away to college? The entire family—not just the person who “unwrapped” the pet on Christmas morning—should be prepared to invest time, money, and emotions to ensure a good quality of life for the pet.

Traditional holiday gifts can be easy to return to a store if the recipient is dissatisfied. A living, breathing animal is not. Giving an animal as a gift may begin with the best of intentions, but often ends poorly, especially for the animal. Shelters and rescues see an increase in occupancy in the months following the holiday season. Once the child loses interest, the puppy chews up another pair of shoes, or the family realizes that the pet requires more time or financial commitment than they were willing to invest, many pets end up in search of new homes.


If, after doing your research, you decide to put a kitten or puppy under the tree this year, we look forward to meeting your new addition. Call us at 704-827-7422 to schedule an appointment.