Gifting a pet during the holidays?

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Santa Cat and Dog
A pet can be the most precious holiday gift.

It’s a holiday image as iconic as Santa Claus himself – a puppy or kitten donning a big red bow on Christmas morning.

Given how enriching and joyful animal companionship can be, the inclination to share that with those we love is understandable. In fact, many animal shelters actually encourage the gesture.

This may surprise most people, given the prevalent misconception that gifting a pet typically results in the animal ending up in a shelter. However, studies conducted on the return rate of animals obtained as gifts conclusively show that these pets are no more likely – and in some cases less likely – to be relinquished to shelters.

Since there is no shortage of animals needing homes, gifting a pet can actually be a mutually beneficial opportunity. The key is preparation – ensuring the gift recipient understands that a companion animal is a long-term commitment and is willing to provide for their pet’s needs, now and down the road.

Here are steps strongly recommended for gift givers to take to ensure both the animal and the gift recipient are positioned for long-term success together:

  1. Refrain from impulse reactions to cuteness.

We know how adorable kittens and puppies can be, but they do require constant supervision, training, cleaning and a whole lot of patience. So selecting the right pet for a family member or friend really depends on a number of factors beyond how cute an animal looks. It’s important to research the behavior, habits, energy and enrichment needs for any animal to determine the best match for a person’s lifestyle and financial means.

  1. Physical and financial preparation.

Pets are not a one-time expense. Beyond the adoption fee or purchase price, pets are going to need supplies and basic medical care upfront. The new pet parent should be prepared to acquire a collar, leash, food, litter, toys, vaccinations and a bed initially for your new pet. Additionally, they’ll want to “pet-proof” their home to ensure optimum safety by putting up baby gates, scanning the floor and low furniture for sharp edges or objects that could potentially become choking hazards.

The new pet parent should also be aware that throughout a pet’s lifetime, it’s natural to incur costs for their recurring needs (mentioned above) but also for unexpected needs such as veterinary treatment for illness or injury. Given the inevitable nature of medical treatment for pets, all pet parents are highly encouraged to be proactive by securing a health insurance policy for their animals. The monthly premiums for these policies are often affordable and can help ease the financial burden of lifesaving veterinary care your pet will likely need one day.

  1. Introduction to resident pet.

If the gift recipient already has a pet in the home, this step is crucial. For canine-to-canine intros, the best approach is allowing them to meet outside of your home – in a neutral outdoor territory – to make sure they are compatible. For canine-to-cat and cat-to-cat intros, check out our resource articles on the best ways to safely facilitate these important meet and greet sessions.

  1. Adoption gift certificate to a shelter.

Perhaps the very best way to go about gifting a pet is to actively involve the pet parent-to-be in the selection process by giving them a gift certificate that covers the adoption fee of an animal at a local shelter or rescue group. These organizations are often filled to the brim with mixed breed and pure bred animals that need new families. Additionally, this approach allows the pet parent time to research what they’re looking for and adequately prepare for the exciting arrival of a new companion animal.


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