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Pets as Holiday Presents: Is It a Good Idea?

Many individuals believe that pets make wonderful gifts as they are so loveable and usually so entirely unexpected. It’s true–many individuals have been happily surprised by a new kitten or a new puppy, going on to establish and maintain a long, loving relationship with said pet. However, there are also those instances where a surprise pet is given a cold reception, and may even be returned from whence it came. In fact, some animal shelters across the country don’t permit people to adopt pets when they intend to give them as surprise gifts. But one is still left to wonder–should the latter be the exception? Or should it be the rule?

Pets as Holiday Presents

It is rare that an individual would choose a pet as a holiday gift without previously establishing that their loved one would appreciate and enjoy said gift. In such a case, it is logical that the pet given as a gift would be highly welcomed by the recipient, and this certainly seems to be the truth. Research by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has confirmed that the majority of gifted pets are often kept and in fact some individuals who have been gifted their pets feel that this increases their affection for the pet.

For a long time, animal shelters honestly believed that gifted pets were a bad idea, and often resulted in the pet’s quick return to the shelter, and some animal shelters still hold to this theory–turning away those who would adopt a pet as a gift. The explanation for this view is that since a pet is a living thing, with its own very specific needs and desires, its adoption needs to be contingent upon the knowledge that the home will be a very good fit for the pet, and the pet a very good fit for the home. The new owner also needs to consider whether they are prepared, emotionally and financially, to provide everything their pet will need–including food, exercise and health care. A gifted pet for whom this has not been made certain does risk a return trip to the shelter it just left. However, the fact is that while this can sometimes occur it does not occur often, and there are things that can be done to help ensure that it won’t occur for one’s own gifted pet.

Sometimes, pet gifting occurs as a last resort gift–parents who are frantic because they’ve run out of time and feel that they have not yet purchased sufficient gifts for their loved one. This is probably one of the prime occasions where pet gifting turns bad–simply because it wasn’t well thought out and all ramifications considered. Another time that pet gifting can go wrong is when the individual considering pet gifting doesn’t make absolutely certain that the recipient truly does want the pet. Some individuals may casually state that they would love to have a new kitten or a new puppy, and while it sounds convincing, they may not actually truly comprehend what it will be like to have a new pet in their home. They may have fallen in love with their friend’s calm, gentle adult cat, and be stunned when their new kitten simply won’t let them sleep at night. Or they may not have the time to devote to house and behavior training a new puppy and feel overwhelmed when they are suddenly confronted with these responsibilities.

Since studies have indicated that gifted pets are more often well-received, some shelters now promote holiday pet giving. A few even offer to have shelter staff, dressed as elves, deliver the gifted pet on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. If you are absolutely certain that your loved one desires the pet you intend to give them, you are fairly safe in gifting them this pet for the holidays and being much appreciated for doing so. However, if you feel that your loved one may want the pet but you aren’t entirely certain they will readily accept a gifted pet, consider gifting them a coupon to use toward an adoption fee and a surprise trip to the animal shelter so that they can pick their pet out for themselves, when they are absolutely certain that they are ready.

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