First let me remind you that we're part of the Chanukah Blog Crawl. Here's the link to the entire schedule:
If you've been reading my work for any amount of time, you already know how I feel about pets as gifts at any time of year but this is an especially vulnerable time for people, puppies and kittens. Most kids are begging for a pet and many people are loathe to refuse. I'm not saying that every family shouldn't have a pet. What I am saying is that there's a lot to consider and even then, the new pet shouldn't arrive for the holidays.
Is your family ready for the lifetime commitment of having a pet? A dog or cat shouldn't be thrown outside. If you want to plant something outside, buy a tree. A pet is not a television or refrigerator that sits in the corner. A pet is an interactive family member who needs attention, training, food, fresh water, veterinary care and appropriate toys. If you get a cat you will also need a sturdy cat tree, a sturdy scratching post and two litterboxes because the rule of them is one for each cat and one for the house.
You cannot expect the child to take care of the pet although the child (or children) can help with age-appropriate pet chores and everyone can learn clicker training which can be done with both a dog and a cat.
If you've decided to get a pet for your family and you are ready for the responsibility, including who will take care of the pet while everyone is out of the house at work and school, decide which type of pet is best for your family and your lifestyle. Most people put more time into choosing a new car or kitchen appliance than they do into a new family member. If you want a purebred dog or pedigreed cat, go to a reputable breeder and if you have to go on a waiting list, so be it. It's worth it the wait for a healthy, well socialized pet. Or you can go to breed rescue and adopt a purebred who has lost his or her home through no fault of their own. You can also go to your local shelter and save a life. But be sure to ask why the cat or dog was brought to the shelter, as well as the pet's activity level to see if it matches that of your family and will fit in with other pets you might have.
Whatever you do, do NOT go to a pet shop. Pet shop puppies come from puppy mills where they are bred without thought, usually in crowded, cruel conditions where they live on paper, sleep and eat on paper, defecate on paper and are more difficult to housetrain and often have both health and socialization problems. They are then gathered together by a "bunters" when they are entirely too young to leave mom and littermates and are trucked to pet shops and put on display for higher prices than you would pay to a responsible, ethical breeder whose male and female are health checked before breeding, the puppies or kittens are well-socialized, and don't leave their mom and littermates until their about 12 weeks old and have had a chance to learn to play and interact with others of their own species.
The ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) has a wonderful campaign: Puppies Are Not Toys. Please take a minute to watch their wonderful video:
Instead of giving the pet, give a Puppy or Kitten "layette," with an appropriate book on care of your newcomer, a breed specific book if you're opting for a purebred or pedigreed family member, appropriate toys, a bed, food and water bowls, etc. Look for a veterinarian and be sure to make an appointment within 72 hours after your new pet comes home (but not in the first 24 hours) to be sure the newcomer is healthy.
Also bringing a pet home during the holidays when people are in and out, everyone is busy and there's too much activity - enough to confuse even an established family pet is not a very nice thing to do to your new companion.
Waiting to bring home the pet will allow the family has time to prepare for the newcomer.
Our friends at the ASPCA (www.aspca.org) are offering one of my readers a wonderful holiday gift that contains:
- ASPCA orange tote
- ASPCA magnet
- ASPCA orange wristband
How can you win? E-mail me through my website (www.darlenearden.com) between now and Monday, December 17th. One winner will be chosen. Good luck!