Little puppy next to presents and santa hat

Pets are Not Gifts

posted in: Pet Care

Your child asked for a pet and maybe you think the holidays are a perfect time to get one. Or maybe you think a cute kitten for your girlfriend will make her light up like Christmas lights! But many animal advocates and rescue organizations will be wary of those who want to give pets as gifts, and when you find out why, it makes sense.

Here are the top five reasons why pets should not be gifts:

1. Long-term Commitment

That kitten you pass in front of the grocery store or that litter of puppies look cute now, but they are not going to stay babies forever. A pet is a life-long companion–at least for the length of its life, which could be fifteen years or more. How can you make such a commitment for someone else? It’s like adopting a baby and giving it to a friend as a surprise. You’d never do that!

You also have to consider the time needed to spend with a pet: travel, boarding, the hours your friend is at work. Who will care for the pet? There is so much to consider when bringing a pet into a household, the least of which is that it’s cute…for the moment.

2. Financial Outlay

If you are a responsible pet owner, you will spend $500-$1,000 a year on its annual care. That includes shots, medication like monthly heartworm, spay/neuter, food, water, and supplies. It’s not very polite to give a gift that needs that kind of financial maintenance, long term (see #1).

3. Residential Restrictions

Many apartment complexes and homeowners’ associations have restrictions on what kind of pets are allowed. It’s never a good idea to try to hide a pet from a landlord. You risk the chance that the pet–or the humans–will get evicted.

It’s extremely traumatic every time a dog or cat switches homes. They are not sweaters you can borrow and pass on. They are living beings with feelings, and don’t understand why they are getting abandoned and where their previous humans are. Pets imprint on their humans as if they were parents. How would you like it if your parents decided to give you to another family–and then that family only kept you for a couple of months?

4. “Replacement” Pets Rarely Help

If your friend just lost a beloved pet, they need time to grieve. The worst thing you can say is “Just get another one!” and the worst thing you can do is try to replace their lost companion with a new one, not of their own choosing.

In fact, when someone has recently lost a pet, rescues try to steer them away from new pets of the same breed, color or markings. Each animal–like each human–is different. If they get a dog that looks just like Old Buddy, they will expect it to behave like Buddy and respond to them like Buddy, which it may not. It’s automatically setting up the new Buddy for failure.

5. Attraction and Bonding are Personal

If you’ve ever gone to a rescue event or shelter to adopt a pet, you know that an attraction to a particular pet is highly personal. Sure, that pup may be cute, but there is a special unspoken bond that happens between human and animal that pet owners can’t explain.

“I just knew he was the one,” many say. “It was just the way he looked at me.”

Like human relationships, it’s a combination of chemistry and kismet. You can’t be a middleman for that moment in time when the human and pet find each other.

So the next time you think a kitten or puppy would be a “cute” or “delightful” gift, please consider the above. And then go get flowers or a bottle of wine.

Why many rescues and shelters don’t adopt out during the holidays: