Are Pets Appropriate Gifts?

Filed Under: Dogs, Cats, Pocket Pets, General Care, Birds, Fish

Are pets appropriate gifts for the holidays? The answer to this should always be yes, but unfortunately this question is often tragically answered, no! Pets make wonderful companions. They enrich our lives and are always there for us. Where else are you going to find an individual that is always in a good mood and glad to see you? These wonderful critters are devoted and loyal. Yet they are dependent on us for everything, thereby creating an awesome responsibility.

When adopting a pet puppy or kitten, you are taking the responsibility for that life for the next 12 to 15 years, sometimes longer. The commitment for some pets such as a parrot may be for 50 years, or even a lifetime. Ask yourself, ‘Is the receiving party ready and willing to accept that responsibility?’ Can the adopting individual afford the time, money and resources to adequately care for that new pet? Does the individual have a stable lifestyle that would provide a home environment in which this pet would thrive? Is the lifestyle of that individual likely to change in such a way that the pet would no longer be welcome? The number one reason owners reportedly turn their pets into animal shelters is moving from one location to another. How likely is this person to move, and if so will they be able to find new housing with a pet? When the answer to any of these questions is a no, then the answer to the first question must be a resounding, No!

Dr. Gail Golab of the AVMA states that another major reason healthy pets wind up at animal shelters is that people acquire a pet with an expectation that the pet doesn’t fulfill. Before placing a pet, we should make sure that particular pet, or breed of pet, is appropriate to the proposed owner’s lifestyle. A senior may appreciate a lap dog, such as a toy poodle or a cat as compared to an 80-pound German shepherd watch dog. A 90-pound woman cannot characteristically handle a 120-pound Great Dane, although there are exceptions to any rule. Is that apartment dweller willing to walk down five flights of stairs to walk a new puppy, or would a kitten that uses a litter box be more appropriate? Does this person need a constant companion, a working partner, or an occasional friend? When a person is particular about housecleaning, a dog or cat that sheds constantly may or may not be appropriate. A kitten may not be a good match for someone allergic to cats. Answers to these questions will determine which breed or type of pet will fill the void in a certain person’s life.

One of the biggest shopping days of the year is the day after Christmas, when long lines of people having received various gifts are in stores to return those gifts, no matter how well intended. Returns of living pets are far harder and may result in severe stress on the pet.

Before deciding on a live pet for a gift, make sure that the recipient of the gift has a desire and a need for that specific pet placement. Surprises involving live animals may not be appropriate. Even the sex of the pet may be an important consideration. No matter how well intentioned, it may be the pet that pays for an inappropriate match-up.


“Assist Owners in Selecting the Best Pets for their Lifestyles”. The Compendium Continuing Education for Veterinarians. Vol 29(10). October 2007. Pp. 678.

Topics: pets, responsibility

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