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7 Considerations Before Gifting a Pet this Holiday

Pet first

Is a dog or cat on your holiday gift list? Learn why pets are more than just a gift – and how planning for one can make a world of difference.

’Tis the season to start shopping to find the perfect presents for everyone on your list. From the latest tech gadgets to the hottest toy, searching the aisles, both online and in the shops — the hunt is on for the gift that will bring the most joy this season.

But there is one item that you won’t find on a published gift list. And for good reason: Pets are more than just a gift.

Many pet experts-from veterinarians to animal behaviorists- advise that people must think differently about pets as gifts. Unlike a toy, gadget, clothing or jewelry, pets are a gift that lasts for the lifetime of the pet: not just a gift for the season. You don’t gift a pet; you plan for a pet.

Socially responsible pet ownership begins with these considerations:

1) Find the right type: Every dog (and every cat) is different, so it’s important to consider what type will be best. Think about energy levels, temperament, grooming needs and size. For example, while all dogs need mental stimulation, exercise and playtime, some breeds need more space than others.

2) Think pet first: Dogs and cats bring many physical and mental health benefits for the young, the not so young and everyone in between but many people underestimate the time and effort needed to care for a pet. Unfortunately, this results in many animals being surrendered to shelters for behavioral issues or a realization that the pet is not suited to the owner’s lifestyle. This is why it’s so important that everyone understands the responsibility involved for the lifetime of the pet. To bring out the best in you and your pet, you’ll have to be committed to giving a lot of time and attention –and that may not always be convenient for you.

3) Give a warm welcome: The holidays are a busy time, with lots of friends, family and celebrations. You might not have the time required to help your pet adjust to its new environment during those very important first few days and weeks, which is why waiting until after the holidays might be better for all parties’ involved-pets and owners. 

4) Involve everyone: No unexpected pets.  Involve everyone who will live with the cat or dog in the decision to find the right one. The same is true for deciding who cares for the new pet. TIP: Create a job chart to track the pet’s activities and schedule, as well assign who is responsible for each task. Consider who is the primary caregiver, and is he/she old enough to undertake this large responsibility? Who is in charge of each feeding, daily walks or exercise, grooming, cleaning the litter tray and making veterinary appointments? What happens while you work or travel? You’ll need to plan how your pets’ needs will be met, even if you aren’t the one who can meet them. 

5) Be prepared for the unexpected: This shouldn’t come as a surprise: pets can be pricey, but any pet owner will tell you they are worth the costs.  Basic supplies and regular grooming adds up, and experts recommend setting aside some money for unexpected expenses — from special diets, pet insurance and caring for potential health issues. 

6) Find a veterinarian: Before you bring home a new pet, many breeders and shelters require you to identify a veterinarian. Veterinarians provide important vaccinations, preventive care and regular health examinations. They can also help you identify the right food for the breed, age, activity level and health condition.

7) Create a pet care primer: A pet starter kit is great for you, and also makes a thoughtful gift for anyone you know who may be getting a new cat or dog. Items to include in the package: a bag of premium food based on the pet’s unique breed and needs; basic grooming tools; a collar;  leash; a name tag with the name and phone numbers of the owner and the veterinarian;, and a new scheduler to record daily routines, milestones and important dates and contacts.

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