Holiday Giving: To Gift a Pet, or Not?

How many of us have the holiday image of a cute critter peeking out of a beautifully wrapped box or carefully hung stocking? As our grandchild (niece, nephew, cousins’ children, etc.) come over for dinner and gifts, we imagine the squeals of joy and the years of happiness and harmony. Let’s put aside the “movie of the week” dream and look at reality.

Our likes and dislikes influence our giving choice. Just because you adore big, fluffy cats does not mean your brother will. You may love parrots; your friend cannot stand birds but has pretended to so as not to hurt your feelings. Never assume someone will grow to love the gift.

The timing of a pet is personal. What if the recipient is facing a major work change or even moving but has not yet told people because she is waiting for more details? What if the recipient is moving an ailing relative into the house? You should not determine the timing of the pet.

You will gift years of expense. Depending on the species, the expected annual costs could be a few hundred to several thousand dollars. These costs do not include treatments for emergencies or chronic illnesses. It is not fair to give something that will be a financial burden to the recipient.

Most children are not able to be sole caretakers for a pet.  There may be a good reason your grandchild does not have a puppy: His parents do not want the responsibility. Go to your local shelter. Check out how many animals have “child lost interest” as the reason for surrender.

Sometimes, gifting a pet can work. For example, you and your spouse know you want to add a pet. After you have done all your research and have agreed on what you want, you decide to surprise your spouse or your children with the pet.    

But when you gift a pet, that dream moment could fast become a post-holiday nightmare. Stop and think long and hard. Think about the sanity of the recipient and the future of the animal.  

Karen Peak runs West Wind Dog Training in Prince William County, developed The Safe Kids/Safe Dogs Project, and is currently working on her second book. She lives with her husband, two children, four dogs and several cats.

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