Monday, December 14, 2015

Pets as Holiday Gifts?

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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
Many shelters will not allow adoption during this busy time of year but you can buy a gift certificate to go under the tree.

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.


Gordon Brice said...

Wonderful advice, Darlene, raising many points that I'm sure a lot of people don't take into consideration. If they did, the number of pets finding themselves back in a shelter after Christmas, would almost certainly be reduced. I am going to share your blog and hope that others will do the same to help spread the word.

Lynne said...

I once sold a Christmas puppy. This couple already had one of my pups. Wife wanted a second one, husband wanted to wait. They knew I had a litter due just before Christmas. She called me, was DYING for a second Newf. HE called to ask if he could reserve one, but it was going to be a surprise for her, usually a no-no, too. I had more laughs with the calls from both of them, she telling me how desperately she wanted one, he laughing about how she had all her friends working on him. They had a bitch, wanted a dog, so he came down before Christmas and took pictures of the three males in the litter. He wrapped them in the puppy crate and put that under the tree! She called me, crying happily, arranged to visit ASAP! Actually, I expected them to come over Christmas day! There was no doubt this was a terrific home and a very wanted pup, and it was SUCH fun for all of us!

Darlene said...

Thank you, Gordon. I'm so glad you liked this post. I thought it was extremely important and wanted to get the information out before Christmas. Thank you for sharing. This post is definitely meant to be shared!

Darlene said...

Lynne, thank you for sharing that adorable holiday story! Your situation was definitely the exception that proved the rule. You had already screened them and trusted them with one of your puppies, they had proven to be good pet parents and both wanted the puppy. The best of it is that the puppy didn't come home at Christmas and was the perfect surprise for the wife. I'm sure you loved fielding their phone calls. LOL This is a wonderful example of a happy ending and everything done correctly.

James Stagg said...

Really good advice, Darlene. May I add the unfortunate parent who "gives" a pet to a small child who is incapable of caring for "his (her)" pet? Sometimes the parent(s) become upset when the child ignores the pet to play with toys or other children.

Susan said...

I really like this post. I always suggest that instead of a live animal for Christmas or any occasion, that they give a stuffed animal as a substitute. I feel strongly that if the recipient of the animal have a say in what kind/breed and which individual it should be since it is a very personal thing. Not all puppies or kittens in a litter have the personality or temperament that will work in the family or the individual.
Sue Bulanda

Darlene said...

HI James, Thank you for your comment. That is exactly right. The parents are really getting the pet for themselves. Children can only do what is age-appropriate, "helping" mom or dad care for the pet. Becoming upset over a child being a child makes me think the parents are mature enough to have children!

Darlene said...

Hi Sue,
Thank you for your comment. You are absolutely right. It is a very personal decision and each puppy or kitten in a litter is an individual. I wish more people would do as much research before getting a new family member as they do when looking for a new car or refrigerator. Or, even better, hire a behavior consultant or positive trainer to meet with the family and help them choose an appropriate new family member.