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Here’s a question I often get asked coming into the Christmas season.
Well my answer to that question is seldom just a straight yes or no, because there are often so many factors that need to be taken into consideration before making such a big commitment.
However, if you are considering gifting a pet this Christmas (or indeed at any time of the year) following these 7 rules can really help you make the right decision for both the receiver of the pet…and for the pet itself.
Unless you are the parent or the partner of the person you’re giving the pet to (and therefore willing and able to take responsibility for the pet yourself), never, ever give a pet a surprise.
Owning a pet is a huge commitment that the owner needs to be totally on board for before the pet comes into your life.
If the person receiving the pet as a gift is not ready for such a commitment it is incredibly unfair on the animal to have to be rehomed or even worse, end up at an animal shelter or at the pound
If you would like to surprise your children or partner with a pet, wrap up a photo of a pet instead of giving them a live animal. This still gives them a wonderful surprise on Christmas morning but it also allows them to be part of the selection process, making important decisions about the age, breed and sex of the pet, as well as whether they’ll choose a rescue animal from a pound or pick their favourite kitten or puppy from a litter.
No matter how cute that breeder’s photo of their litter of kittens looks or how sad the rescue dog at the shelter seems to be, please don’t buy a pet on impulse. You need to be realistic about the amount of free time the recipient has to exercise their pet—many breeds of dog require at least 2 x 1 hour walks every day and they become destructive if left at home for long periods of time.
You also need to take into consideration the ongoing costs of looking after a pet: feeding, grooming, vaccinations, worming, flea and tick control, toys, toileting, boarding, doggy day care, training…and of course, any unexpected vet bills!
If they travel a lot for work or for pleasure is there someone reliable who can look after their pet properly for them while they are away? Or alternatively can they afford to board their pet in a place they feel comfortable while they are away?
Other questions to think about are the security of the backyard and how any existing pets might react to the new arrival. If they’re expecting any more children, will they feel safe with a pet around a newborn or even have any spare time to train or walk the pet once the new baby arrives?
If you are giving a pet to your children the reality is that the majority of the care of the animal often ends up falling at the feet of the parents. Once the novelty of the new arrival wears off, guess who will be picking up the poo, walking the pet in the rain, etc.?
Even older children, who understand the responsibility of pet ownership, cannot always be relied upon to take on the responsibility as their lives fill up with school, sporting and their own social activities and work commitments.
Would you prefer to rescue an older pet or do you have the time and the patience to train a new kitten or puppy? Do you have room for a dog that needs space to run or do you live in a unit that only allows rabbits or cats? If you have young children, do you know which breeds are the most tolerant to the manhandling toddlers can dish out in regular doses? Do you have anyone in the family with allergies, necessitating the purchase of a breed with a low shedding coat?
Putting the research in BEFORE you buy a pet will help you make a much better informed decision, which will result in a happier pet owner and a happier pet.
No, I’m not kidding here. There are several ways you can ‘try before you buy’ a pet.
Offer to mind friend’s pets when they go away to see how your kids deal with the responsibilities and whether they like that type of pet.
Talk to other pet owners at dog parks about the challenges and costs of their particular breed. Or volunteer to become a foster parent to animals from the local shelter or to take home pets from the pet shop over public holidays.
Another idea is to pay a pet’s adoption fees in advance as your Christmas gift, which allows the person receiving the pet to choose which pet they want from the shelter (and if they end up deciding not to go ahead with adopting a pet your donation still goes to a worthy cause).
If you’re thinking about giving the gift of a pet this Christmas, following these 7 rules can really help you make an informed and responsible decision. A mobile vet can also come to your home to assess your family’s situation and help you decide whether giving a pet is the right gift for your circumstances.
Pets bring so much joy into our lives…I know just how much enjoyment my clients and my own family gets from our pets. And there are so many varieties in breeds, types and ages there really is a pet out there for everyone.
From my family and our pets, we wish your family and your pets a very merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.