Giving a Pet as a Gift

It was around fifteen years ago that I was given my most unusual Christmas present ever.  My Uncle Monty seen this really cute little condo that he though was adorable and which he just knew I’d love.  So he bought me the condo, for my Christmas.  Well he didn’t actually buy me a condo, he paid for the Home Report and left me with the mortgage, insurance heating and lighting bills and of course, the condo fees.  I always despised that condo.  Now, it’s probably useful to point out that Uncle Monty is a fictional character made up in my head and the fictional Uncle Monty didn’t buy me a condo.  He is simply an exaggerated metaphor to highlight the possible pitfalls of buying someone a present that has unaccounted responsibilities attached.

On the face of it it’s a rather sweet idea, and almost always well intentioned.  There really isn’t anything not to love about a puppy or a kitten; they exude nothing but cuteness at that age, they want to play ALL the time and you probably won’t even have to take them for a walk at that young age.  And although you could probably point to Santa’s Little Helper as a famed holiday pet success story, unfortunately it doesn’t always end that well.  So what are the pitfalls of giving a pet for Christmas?

Christmas is stressful enough, isn’t it?

Last minute gift shopping, last minute food shopping, last minute miscellaneous shopping, preparing Christmas dinner for twenty, traveling to the middle of nowhere to visit some vague distant relatives on Boxing Day, etc., etc., etc.  There’s just too much stressful stuff going on at this time of year so seem a bit masochistic to add a new pet in to the mix.  It might be wise to choose a less stressful time of the year to introduce a new member of the family.

Winter Weather Sucks!

I arrived in Edmonton for the first time on a dark and chilly February evening.  It was -25°c and I found it really difficult to inhale when I went outside.  I’m a 43 year-old man – I can’t begin to imagine what it would be like for a three-month old puppy – not the best conditions to train them on the lead.  The closer to the summer holidays you get your pet, the more time your kids have to bond with them.

Family Pet, Family Decision?

Some of the presents you give your children will keep their interest for a couple of years if you’re lucky, a few months on average and some wont even hold their attention beyond Christmas Day (normally the ones I give).  A family pet is a fifteen to twenty year commitment; they literally become a member of your family so why not make the whole decision a family one?  You can discuss the responsibilities involved in having and caring for a pet so everyone knows what to expect and therefore less likely to become disinterested over time.  Discussing the idea with the whole family will help raise any possible pitfalls and it’ll make everyone feel involved in the decision.  Family pet, family decision!

Time/Cost Analysis

Pets are often given as a gift on the back of an impulse.  Now, while there are a number of impulses which can probably be viewed as positive, giving a pet as a gift probably isn’t one of them.  The initial outlay for a rescue pet can be minimal, especially at Zoe’s who cover micro-chipping, neuter/spaying and vaccinations.  But the average cost per year for a dog can be around $1,400 (more in the unfortunate event of emergency medical bills).

Time is another important consideration, especially for dogs who absolutely love a walk!  Careful discussion and planning will allow families to ensure that everyone is committed to providing their share of the time required to accommodate your new family member.  Another reason why pets work less well as surprises.

Breeding Contempt.

The saddest aspect of giving pets as a gift at Christmas is that it creates a demand for (especially) puppies which sadly some very unscrupulous breeders/puppy mill owners are only to happy to satisfy.  This is a bad thing.

So basically, giving a pet on the back of a rash albeit well intentioned impulse might not be the best idea.  If you want a pet to be a family pet, it’s probably best to check with everyone first!

Now back to my Christmas shopping list – what to get Uncle Monty this year – he’s such a devil to buy for…