|Photo Courtesy of Susan Bulanda|
This time of year too many people think it's a great idea to give a puppy or kitten as a gift. Generally speaking, it's a very bad idea. A puppy or kitten is a living, breathing sentient being who can live anywhere from 10 to 20 years.
The first thing to consider is: does the person want the responsibility and can they afford veterinary bills, food, toys, bowls, food, training lesson? In the case of cats, they will also need litter boxes, litter (and those boxes have to be kept scrupulously clean), a sturdy scratching post, a sturdy cat tree with a base that won't topple over, special interactive toys. It all adds up.
If they live in an apartment, are pets allowed?
|Photo by Rabi Dixon|
Even if the family has decided to get a pet, the holidays are the worst time to bring them home if you are busy and entertaining. The puppy or kitten is a baby who has left mother, littermates and all she has known and is suddenly thrust into a new, noisy place where she can be stepped on, accidentally let outside because guests are coming and going. It's noisy, confusing and your guest may decide to slip your new family member some food that isn't good for her, or, worst case scenario, someone let her drink an alcoholic beverage.
|Photo by Claire Clayton|
If you have decided to add a new family member, take time to do your research. Every puppy or kitten i s programmed to behave in a certain way and all babies are curious and mischievous. You need to confine the newcomer to one room with everything he needs and spend time with him. You need time when you can get down to the business of house training. That first veterinary appointment should be arranged within 48 hours of homecoming.
|Photo by Anne Hudson|
As an alternative to bringing the puppy or kitten home, give your family and IOU for the newcomer. Gifts should be all the accoutrements you will need for your new family member. Gift wrap toys, bowls or dishes, litter boxes, litter, a book or two about the breed if you're getting a pedigreed dog or papered cat. You will need a book on training using positive methods, preferably clicker training (yes, you can clicker train a cat, too!), a special bed, a safe carrier, toys.
|Photo by Darlene Arden|
Be very sure of what you are doing. Sadly, January is when those gift puppies and kittens are dumped back on a shelter.
When things have quieted down, and you have time off from work is the best time to introduce a newcomer into the family. You want to get off on the right foot and build a relationship that will last a lifetime. There is nothing as special as the human-animal bond.