This goes without saying, but you can never say it too often because it happens every year: don’t give pets as presents. If you’re thinking about gifting a pet to someone you love this year, consider very carefully. Pets are lifelong commitments and responsibilities, not fun presents.
Now, I can think of one context in which it could be OK to give a pet for a present: if the person receiving asked for it, knew that’s what they were getting, and understood the responsibilities involved. That means in most cases, it’s not appropriate to get pets as gifts for children: they don’t really understand the responsibility involved. They genuinely mean it when they say they are going to take care of it, but the luster fades after a while, and they don’t spend as much time with or look after the pet as much as they should. You should only give children a pet as a present if you want it as well, and don’t mind taking care of it should you need to.
However, it could work out if you have an adult in your life who wants a pet, understands the responsibility, and who knows they’re going to receive one for Christmas. There are just too many “ifs” for it to be generally considered a good idea.
If you’re not certain, consider this list of things young puppies (3-6 months) require for their care:
- Feeding three times a day. Someone needs to be home in the middle of the day to give them their lunch
- Go out every 2-3 hours during the day, and immediately first thing in the morning.
- You’re lucky if they’ll be able to let you know when they need to go out. In most cases you’ll have to anticipate it. If they do give you warning, consider it immediate warning. Expect to clean up a lot of messes.
- They have a lot of energy. They’ll need to play and exercise a lot, so they’ll need plenty of toys, and some of those trips outside need to involve walks as well.
- Many puppies get separation anxiety, so expect them to cry a lot when you leave. If you have neighbors in the same building as you, your puppy could be a nuisance.
- Puppies teethe at around 4 months old, so they’ll need toys they can chew (and get bloody) when they start teething.
- You’ll have to puppy-proof the house. It’s very similar to baby-proofing: no objects they can chew or swallow at head-level, including wires, shoes, and yes, even books.
These are just a few things you’ll need to consider before getting a new puppy. Younger puppies will require even more care, and while older ones will need less, they’ll still be high-energy for the first year or so. Even adult dogs will take a while to adjust to your home, and they still need a lot of care. Cats are less work, but they still require care and attention, which is why they’re not best as a surprise present.
Your family can still consider pets at the holidays. If you think you’d like a pet, consider fostering one for the holidays; it’ll give you an idea of the work involved. Go to the shelter with your family, look at animals. Be reasonable in dividing the responsibilities, and realize that after a few months, many of them might end up with you. If you don’t have the time for a pet, don’t get one, because unless your kids are teenagers, they’re not likely to take full responsibility for the animal for long.
*(The above image by Theerdech Sanin is from freedigitalphotos.net).