You can picture it: Christmas morning. Your kids or significant other are gathered by the tree. You hand them one last box. They open it to find a new puppy or kitten. They cry happy tears. It’s a moment you will remember fondly together for years to come.
This happy holiday moment can happen. Despite some people’s misgivings about giving pets as presents, studies by the ASPCA show the same attachment rate to pets received as gifts and a lower return rate. But there are a few thing to keep in mind to help ensure this holiday present is a success for everyone.
Don’t make it a surprise. “If it’s your own children, a surprise is fine, but not for any other family members or friends,” said Dean Daubert, Chief Operations Officer at Anderson Humane. “Does the person even want a pet? Do you know their lifestyle well enough to choose a pet that’s a good fit for them?”
Instead of a surprise, Dean suggests going to the shelter with the recipient and offering to take care of the adoption fee. Together with the shelter staff, you can find an animal with the energy level, size, personality, and training or medical needs that’s the right fit for your friend or loved one.
Do think long-term. Whether this pet is for your own family or another’s, remember that adoption is just the beginning of the journey. And it’s the least expensive part. “Pet ownership costs about $1,500 to $5,000 the first year, and $1,500 to $3,000 a year after that,” Dean said. This includes annual veterinarian appointments, food, equipment (beds, toys, leashes, etc.), and any training your new companion might need.
While it’s easy to get caught up in the cuteness of a new kitten or the thought of your kids’ reaction to a new dog, it’s also important to remember this is a lifetime commitment. It’s a wonderful, enriching commitment, but be sure the recipient is ready to make it.
Do consider the logistics. If the pet is for your own family, consider adopting early in December so your pet is acclimated before the holidays – and all the happy chaos they bring. The normal hubbub of the holidays – the tree, gifts and wrapping strewn about, family and friends visiting, extra food around, music playing – can be a bit overwhelming for a pet acclimating to his or her new home.
”We recommend two weeks before introducing your new companion to friends and non-household members,” said Dean. “Each animal is unique. Some may be ready sooner and some may need more time.” Whatever their personality, make sure your companion has time to decompress. “Give them a quiet room or crate where they can escape the hustle and bustle of a new household.”
Don’t forget supplies. The pet recipient will want to be present for the new pet in the first days, leaving less time to outfit the home. “Shop for the basic supplies before you visit the shelter,” Dean said. “You will be happy you picked up the basics ahead of time.” And don’t forget to pet-proof the home before the pet arrives.
A pet supplies bundle would be a great gift idea instead of surprising someone with a new dog or cat. Tell them, “Here’s everything you need for when you get your new furry companion. Now let’s go pick one out!”
Do think beyond cats and dogs. In addition to dogs and cats, there are many other species that make wonderful pets. Some of these animals are a great fit for children, as many are very social, gentle, and are a more manageable size for kids.
“Anderson Humane currently has around 70 small animals available for adoption, including rabbits, rats, birds, mice, and reptiles,” said Dean. “Our staff is happy to help you find the right fit for your family.”