December has (barely) arrived! I’m not going to pretend I’m always a timely gift giver. However, with back orders and shipping delays and everything, I’m actually trying this year. This brings me to one of my most important December posts: never give pets. There are very few exceptions to this rule and I’ll go over them, and most importantly why pet gifts are a bad idea.
It’s a difficult concept that I’m familiar with. What’s cuter than a pet sitting under the tree with a little Santa hat on? Honestly, not much. What can delight a child more than a brand new Christmas pet? Not much either. So what’s wrong when you feel so good ?!
The truth is, pets are a lot of work. Different pets adapt to different circumstances. If you are the caretaker of a child and also commit to caring for the animal for its entire life, you are exempt. If you have spoken to their sitter and have express permission that the responsible adult is willing and able to care for the pet, you are also exempt. The same applies even if you buy a pet for an adult. Pets take a lot of time, money, and work. Even a fully responsible adult may not be fully in the know about everything that comes with caring for pets, which is why I always recommend exploring this fully with them.
TimeAnimals take a long time. Fish, reptiles and small mammals certainly take less. Cats take the next less. Dogs and horses are both a lot of work. Dogs need to be outside, they need exercise, socialization, and training. Dogs can only be left home alone for that long, so they need a lot of planning. Even if someone is gone from 7:30 a.m. to 5:50 p.m., a puppy cannot be left for this party. At the very least, an adult dog should go to the bathroom three times a day. Ideally more often with one to two of those involving structured exercise.
Puppies, on the other hand, often need to go outside every hour or so. Puppies need to be trained, which is an activity several times a day. They often need to go to class for vocational training and socialization. Puppies are way tougher than you ever remember!
Cats take less of it because they (most of them) stay indoors all the time. So they need food, water and cleaned litter boxes. You can even get self-cleaning litter boxes and automatic feeders, so you are becoming obsolete! I’m kidding though. Cats need and love interaction with their humans.
They seem distant at times, but they like a good play / brush / cuddle routine. Most of the stress we see in cats comes from changes in their owner’s routine or lack of interactions. So even though they are more successful with longer days, they still need interaction to meet their needs.
Fish, reptiles and amphibians require less work. However, they need a very carefully maintained environment to stay healthy. This is not always easy and most illnesses in these animals come from an inappropriate environment or diet.
MoneyWe all like to imagine that pets are free, but in fact, they are anything but. This is, in my opinion, the hardest part of owning pets. Their food costs money. Monthly prevention costs money. If you don’t use prevention, then it is expensive to treat a flea infestation, heartworm disease, or tick-borne disease. The healthiest animal still needs tests and vaccines. Most pets need dental home care several times a week, and then more expensive dental cleanings at their veterinarian at least a few times in their life.
The hardest part of owning pets is emergency care. If something happens to your cat or dog, can you get them to an emergency hospital for life-saving surgery? Can you pay for continuing care for a chronic illness? The hamster you bought for your niece cost only $ 5, but is anyone willing to pay the $ 500 to remove a tumor? Are they willing to discuss with her the reasons why this cannot happen? (See why I’m doing my depressing article so far from a real happy holiday ?!) I don’t bring up these things to be depressing, I promise. But often when people donate pets, they don’t think about the ongoing costs, so a few years down the road the result can be devastating.
These costs are not only for parents to consider, but we often do not fully understand the financial situation of the person to whom we are giving a pet. A kitten might seem like a good idea, but if the recipient can’t pay for litter, food, and disease, we’ve actually given them a big (adorable) burden. Therefore, if you are considering giving a pet, make sure that you or someone else can help with all the responsibilities. There is nothing I hate more than an amazing furry Christmas present to turn into an unwanted struggle, especially when another life suffers in the meantime.
Stuffed animals or extremely well-discussed pet plans are two great ideas. If a loved one loves your pet, consider offering them some time together. Giving a child the gift of fortnightly walks with you and your dog can not only teach them responsibility, but also bring joy to them and your dog. The same goes for cat grooming or playtime.