To Give or Not to Give

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PetMD Editorial
Published: January 30, 2009

Giving Pets for the Holidays...Why it is and is Not a Good Idea

Bouncing puppies with ribbons tied gaily 'round their necks, fluffy kittens with bright bows atop their heads, twittering birds to join in the holiday chorus and brighten a dull winter day. Companion pets have been a part of the human experience for thousands of years, bringing joy, love, and devotion to their human families while asking for little more than the same in return.

Receiving an animal as a gift is an honor, and speaks much for the giver's affection toward the human friend, and the regard one holds for the importance of animals in society. But gifting an animal can be precarious, at best. A lot of thought and homework needs to go into it -- animals are not disposable, nor can they easily be repackaged, regifted, or returned if the recipient is not pleased.

We at petMD believe that pets are essential to a well-balanced life, and take great satisfaction in sharing the joys of a well-matched companionship between animal and human. And while some of you might be dying to give a new pet to that special someone for the holiday, there are a few considerations to take into account. Now that doesn't mean you should scrap the idea of gifting a pet. Just gift wisely, with thought and foresight, so that you can be sure your present is both well-received and well cared for. Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Give a Pet in the Form of a Certificate. Most people, even children, prefer to choose their own pet based on the connection they feel upon meeting an animal. Adoption is a highly personal experience. A gift certificate for a local animal shelter, or from a local breeder, would allow the gift recipient to “interview” for the companion animal that best suits them, and would better ensure an optimal bonding experience.

  2. It's all in the Timing. Baby animals especially need comforting in the first weeks of being brought into a home. Therefore, it probably isn't wise to thrust a new pet upon your friend without so much as a warning. A pet certificate allows them to get ready, and makes the adoption process an unhurried and calming experience. Pets need to bond with their new family and learn the household schedule. This takes, time, patience, and love.

  3. Surprise Them With Everything But the Pet. A gift box holding all of the accoutrements for a pet, along with a certificate for the pet, will bring as much joy, if not more, as the actual presence of a new pet. The anticipation of planning, meeting and bringing home a new "baby" will make the gift that much more special and memorable.

  4. Know Your Recipient. Make sure that the person you are choosing the future pet for is able to commit 10 to 20 years of caring for a pet (depending on the type of pet). Much like bringing a child into a family, a pet needs affection, nutrition, physical, and basic medical care. Having a pet is as much a financial commitment as it is an emotional commitment.

  5. Do Your Research. You will need to know if your friend has pet limitations imposed by their homeowners association or landlord, and you will also want to find out (without spoiling the surprise) whether your friend has allergies to animal dander. If allergies are a concern, a fish set-up, with the accompanying certificate, will be your best bet. And it almost goes without saying, but make sure your friend wants a pet. 

Image: cloneofsnake / via Flickr