As a general rule, it’s not a good idea to give a pet as a gift.
Pets are an enormous responsibility, and one that should never be undertaken on a whim. A lot of joy and excitement come with getting a new pet and the holidays only magnify those emotions! Don’t let that cloud your judgement when it comes to knowing what’s best for the recipient and most importantly, for the pet.
That said, there is a right way to give a pet as a gift. Here’s how to do it.
Let the “Surprise” Dream Die
Thinking – even considering – giving a pet as a gift? It’s time to let go of the idea of “surprise.” Yes, surprise gifts are particularly fun, but a living creature should never, ever come as a surprise to someone. A pet is a gift that warrants discussion, and a lot of it. That discussion should include all the messy bits – the feedings! the potty breaks! – and the fun stuff, and it shouldn’t happen just once. Talking ensures you and the recipient are on the same page about what owning a pet means and entails.
Choose the Right Pet
In a perfect world, you and the recipient will have discussed exactly what kind of pet to get. You shouldn’t just know whether they want a cat or a dog, but also what kind of animal will suit them best. Do they want a running buddy? A snuggle-bug to watch Netflix with? You must consider everything about an animal, from temperament to shedding, to determine whether it’s the right pet for someone else. For this reason, it’s not recommended that you give a rescue puppy or kitten as a gift; fully-grown adoptable dogs and cats as well as purebreds offer a little more predictability which is key.
Think About the Long-Term
Remember that pets aren’t a one-and-done kind of gift. They cost money – hundreds of dollars a year, at least – and that should be considered and discussed at length well before you give a pet. If you have the resources, consider a gift that keeps giving for years to come. Adopting a pet for free or nearly free then gifting the recipient with in-home visits from a veterinarian, for example, is one way to ensure it’s a gift that doesn’t burden the recipient. You could also include a year’s worth of food, plenty of supplies, or vouchers that can be used for grooming. Think bigger than one moment in time!
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Consider a “Starter Kit” Instead
Is there some nagging thing in the back of your mind telling you it might not be the best idea to gift a pet this year? THEN WAIT. Why not give the recipient a “pet starter kit” instead? Bundling together items they might need for a pet in the future – a bed, food and water bowls, a leash, and reading materials for training and owning a pet – is a good way to get the recipient used to the idea (and also to buy everyone some time.) There will still be a lot of excited squeals and this way the recipient gets to pick out their own pet once they’re ready. Aren’t you thoughtful?
Have a Surrender Plan
Oof, what a buzzkill. Of course, everyone always hopes the gift of a pet is a joyous and positive experience. It doesn’t always work out that way. When getting a new pet – either for yourself or for someone else – it’s imperative that you have a plan in place in case things just don’t pan out. The best thing you can do if this happens is to find a new owner for the pet yourself, a process that’s time consuming but worth the effort. If that’s not an option, find a shelter in your area that’s not already overcrowded and ask if it’s possible for you to bring the pet in. Truthfully, being willing to give a pet to someone else means you should always be willing to consider taking on the pet as your own.