Christmas is a time for family, food, and gifts. Sometimes the hardest one of these three to deal with is the gifts. What does one give someone who may have everything they need? One gift that I do not recommend is the gift of a new pet. Christmas pets are fun to have during the holidays, but what happens to that pet in the months to come?
Christmas Pets – Good or Bad Idea?
tHINK TWICE BEFORE CHOOSING A GIFT, ESPECIALLY IF IT IS A NEW PET
There are gifts that one just doesn’t give. For instance, giving the boss underwear or giving a frying pan to the wife. Pets fit into that “do not give” category. Bringing a new Christmas pet into the chaos of the holidays isn’t fair to the pet. The new kitten is freaked out, so it hides under the bed and won’t come out. The new puppy is into everything and doesn’t understand quiet time because there is no such thing as quiet time with all the chaos going on.
Furthermore, new pets need time and patience. Pets should be adopted by the person or family that is keeping the pet. A new pet needs to come into a quiet, stable environment so it can acclimate to its new surroundings. New pets must learn the family routine and be trained to have good house manners.
WORKING IN SHELTERS AND ANIMAL RESCUE CAN BE HEARTBREAKING
I’ve worked in animal rescue for 12 years. In the early years, we took dogs from the municipal shelters to PetSmart on the weekends with the intention of finding them homes. The ones that weren’t adopted went back to the shelter. This was heartbreaking because we knew that the dogs that returned to the municipal shelter on Sunday night would be euthanized on Monday morning.
In addition, there was an influx of relinquished pets six months after Christmas. The cat cages were full and so were the kennels. The dogs, still young, were barking their heads off. The cats would withdraw into a corner of their cage. They didn’t understand why they had lost their homes. Many of these were Christmas pets given as gifts. Gifts that weren’t planned for. Someone decided to surprise junior with a new puppy or kitten and it didn’t work out. So the young dog or cat ended up in the municipal pound.
SHELTERS AND RESCUE GROUPS HAVE DIFFERENT OPINIONS ON CHRISTMAS PETS
Shelters and rescue groups have divided opinions on whether to adopt out animals that will be given as Christmas pets. From the view of the rescue group or shelter staff, getting new homes for the cats and dogs is a dream come true. On the other hand, the volunteers and staff don’t want to see the same dog or cat come back a few months later because it didn’t work out.
While some shelters run specials to clear out their kennels for the Christmas holiday, more sensible shelters will screen adopters carefully to be sure the person is adopting a pet for their family. The family also needs to be ready to take on the commitment of a new pet.
Many shelters won’t adopt puppies or kittens out around Christmas time. They know that people are impulsive. Someone thinks it’s a good idea at the time, but six months later the dog is tearing up the house and the cat has shredded the drapes. The dog is then chained out in the backyard while the cat is locked up in the basement. If that doesn’t work the animals are relinquished to the municipal shelter. This is one way many pure-bred dogs end up in shelters.
THE ASPCA USUALLY HAS THE RIGHT ADVICE
The ASPCA sits on the fence regarding Christmas pets. A recent study showed that 86% of people who received a pet as a gift kept the pet. However, the ASPCA recommends that people take the following into consideration before buying a pet as a gift:
Is the recipient looking for a new pet?
Will the recipient have the time and money to care for a pet?
If the recipient is a child, do you have the parents approval and are they ready for the responsibility.
Never buy a pet from a pet store, adopt a pet from a rescue group, shelter or get a pet from a reputable breeder.
When getting a puppy for a Christmas pet, the breed of dog one chooses is just as important as making sure the recipient is ready for a new pet. Some breeds like Border Collies, Labrador Retrievers, and German Shepherds need exercise and activity to keep them from getting bored. Laid back breeds like Bulldogs, Chihuahuas, and Pugs are great for people who are more sedentary.
Giving cats for Christmas pets has the same guidelines as dogs, but cats can live up to 20 years. The age of the recipient should be considered. Many senior citizens will get small dogs or cats to keep them company. This is a wonderful thing. The sad part is that when many of these people die the family can’t or won’t take the pet. The pet is then taken to a shelter or a rescue group. This is when a pet trust needs to come into play.
GIVING PETS AS GIFTS FOR CHRISTMAS HAS TO BE THOUGHT OUT
I’ve always been against Christmas pets. That likely comes from what I’ve seen in municipal shelters. My view of pets is that they are special, and they depend on us to take care of them. Getting a pet is a lifelong commitment. Dropping a cat or dog off at a shelter because “it’s an inconvenience” or “it’s not disciplined” is inexcusable in my opinion. I do admit that sometimes pets need to be rehomed. That should be done thoughtfully and carefully considering how many animal abusers there are in this world. If you are getting or giving a Christmas pet, please do it with thought and care. Domesticated animals like cats and dogs are at our mercy. Christmas pets may be fun for us but in the end, we need to do what is best for them.