If you are thinking about giving someone a pet as a holiday gift, most animal experts suggest you think again. While the excitement of surprising a loved one with an adorable puppy or kitten may be tempting, pets are not like a sweater or piece of jewelry that can be easily returned or re-gifted. Companion animals may live for 15 years, and need life-long care in homes where they are loved and treated as members of the family. Too often gift animals end up in shelters, which are already filled with unwanted pets. Rescue groups and shelters are all too familiar with pet gifts as gifts gone bad ... pets who wind up tied out in the yard, starving for affection, food and shelter. General considerations are often overlooked.
Here are a few things to think about:
* Pet lifespan - People need to be mindful of the commitment and financial responsibility of owning a pet. It is easy to adopt a kitten, get a litter box and a bag of food, and believe that you are all set. The average lifespan for an indoor cat is 15-20+ years and depending on the breed, the dog's lifespan can range from 8 years (giant breeds) to 15+ years (smaller breeds).
* Veterinary care and food - Basic veterinary care for a healthy pet should include vaccinations, spay/neuter, dental cleanings, and annual examinations. Dogs and cats require nutritional food...not table scraps so please consider cost of pet food.
* Personality - of the person and of the pet. This is a serious consideration that should be researched and considered thoughtfully. Many of the breed information sites for dogs and cats offer personality and temperament information about the breeds.
* Lifestyle - again, of the person and of the pet. A Chihuahua won't make the best jogging buddy unless you are really SLOW and a Pointer isn't the right size for a lap (even though our mascot Kylie thinks she fits perfectly). Allergies may dictate what type of pet and even the breed of pet for your family. Active households may need to think about a pet that needs lots of exercise and that couch potato family may want a lap cat. Find the pet that best suits your family's schedule and needs.
Helpful alternatives to giving pets as gifts:
* Adoption certificate - we would love to place all of our animals into loving homes but we want the best for our pets and for the families. Consider giving an Adoption Certificate which would allow you to give the gift of a pet "on paper", and if the recipient is not ready for a pet, this saves an unpleasant situation from happening. If this is just what the recipient wanted, wonderful! Now they can personally select one of our pets that is right for them.
* Pet supplies and books - you can pick up gift certificates and actual presents of bowls, leashes, treats, and pet care books. These are useful gifts for new pet owners and those that already have pets.
* Make a donation in honor of that friend or loved one - Give to a local shelter or rescue group. Those who are unable to take on a pet (or add another one) will appreciate this gesture of helping their favorite rescue group or shelter. Here are a few items that are always needed by rescues: dry pet food (dog & cat), wet pet food (dog & cat), blankets, towels, laundry detergent, Clorox, and paper towels.