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Giving Pets as Christmas Gifts

How many of you have ever thought of giving pets as Christmas gifts? Or actually gave someone a pet as a gift? I confess that I’m guilty of doing just that. And even encouraging it. In fact, my daughter, Hannah, bought her little sister a bunny last year, and I thought it was a great idea. And when our Shelties, Kirby and Roxy, died in 2005, I went out and bought a pair of Sheltie puppies, as a surprise, to replace them for our daughters.

head of calico cat sticking out of gift bag in front of Christmas tree

However, is it a good idea to use pets as the gifts? I mean, we’re drawn to animals. And most pets make easier companions than people, ie, they don’t talk back or complain. Furthermore, caring for animals is often perceived as caring for a small child or an infant. For example, pets don’t speak our language, they depend on us for food, shelter, and some to even use the bathroom. Also, they crave companionship like us. Perhaps it’s because of these very things that we gift animals to others. But let’s explore whether or not we should.

Cons of Giving Pets as Christmas Gifts

  • can be stressful
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Gifting pets around the holidays isn’t ideal, because the holidays are a busy time with parties, company, traveling, and shopping. It would add needless stress on the recipient of the gift and on the pet.

  • longterm commitment
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Cats and dogs can live ~ 15 years while parrots have a life expectancy of up to 100 years.

Like how we got our dog, Sophie, from an older couple in their 70s, who felt she would outlive them.

  • time consuming
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The recipient might not have the time or energy to train a pet.

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Caring for a pet goes beyond just the initial fees. It’s a lifelong commitment, and the recipient might not be in a financial position, at the moment, to take on the responsibility of a pet.

However, it’s not all bad new. According to the ASPCA, in the 1990s and 2000s, a survey found that 86% of recipients who received pets as gifts kept the pets.

So below are some caveats if you’re tempted to give pets as Christmas gifts.

Guidelines to Gifting Pets

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The most important piece of advice, when thinking about giving animals as gifts, is to talk to the intended recipient. Here are some questions to consider.

  • Does the recipient even want a pet?

This might sound funny, but it’s very important. And you might think your friend or child might really want a puppy. But if you actually sit down and talk with them, you might discover they’re not ready for that commitment right now.

  • What kind of pet would make a good fit?
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There is no ‘one size fits all’ pet. There are so many different pets, including different types of dogs, cats, etc. From active to laid back. And what you might think someone would like may not be what they would like. So it’s important to get information on the animal: its habits, expenses, any possible common medical issues, etc.

My sister gave her kids a hedgehog last Christmas. And I’m pretty sure it was her idea. Her kids range from 13-9 years, and for a regular pet, they would’ve done fine. But this was a pet that required special care. And they couldn’t do it. The quills shocked them, and they often dropped their pet. So the hedgehog ended up being kinda mean. The result: they returned her to the breeder.

  • Does the recipient have time?
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This will help you determine which pet would make a good gift. Some people think they would like a puppy or kitten, but if they’re gone most nights and days, when would they train or spend time with their fur baby? In time, the pet would, at best, be a burden, or they might even end up neglected. However, here’s a list of some low maintenance pets.

  • How old is the intended recipient?
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Energy level and age go almost hand in hand. You don’t want to get grandma and grandpa an Aussie. Trust me. But by the same token, you don’t want to give a bunny to a 3 year old. It takes a certain level of responsibility and energy level for each animal.

Remember how I mentioned we got our Aussie from a couple in their 70s? They said it was because they thought she would outlive them. But let me tell you, I’m in my 40s, and I don’t have the same energy that I had in my 20s. But thankfully I have kids. Secretly I know that couple gave us Sophie, because they were afraid for their health. They couldn’t match her pace.

  • Can the recipient afford a pet?
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I listed finances as a con to gifting pets. So you want to take this into consideration if you want to give someone a pet for Christmas, or any other holiday. Depending on who you’re giving the pet to, can they afford caring for it? And if the recipient is a child, are the parents prepared to care for the pet?

  • Does the recipient have the space?

Does the intended recipient have space for a pet? And if so, are they allowed to even have pets? Do they own or rent? If they rent, they’ll have a pet deposit. These are serious questions to consider before running out and getting that puppy.

  • What is the recipient’s activity level?
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The last thing to consider is the activity level of the intended recipient. Do they like the outdoors? Or do they stay indoors, hanging out in front of the TV in their spare time? This will help you know whether to get an active pet or a more chill one. Because your friend won’t appreciate you giving them a dog that needs a lot of exercise if they like the peace and comfort of their own home.

How to Give a Pet as a Christmas Gift

So you’ve answered all of the above questions, and you decided a pet is a good idea. But how should you give the pet as a gift?

No doubt you’ve seen movies or commercials where puppies were tied with bows and given to their recipients. Or they were placed in a box. However, that would make the animal nervous or even suffocate if the box was sealed.

stuffed bunny
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Rather than giving a pet at Christmas, give a stuffed animal as a representation of the pet. And tell the recipient that you want to buy a pet for them. That way you can look together.

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Also, many sites advise making the recipient part of the final decision on the pet. Furthermore, countless places encourage adopting from shelters or rescue organizations.

I hope I’ve answered any questions you had. And at least gave you something to think about, if you were wanting to give someone a pet for Christmas.

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