The holiday season is a time of joy, giving, and love; and for many children and adults alike, there’s nothing better than finding an adorable new pet under the Christmas tree! But how can you gift a puppy or kitten for Christmas the right way?
After all, the reality of gifting pets during the holidays is far more complex than the picturesque scenes often portrayed. Most animal welfare organizations are strongly against giving animals as Christmas gifts for a variety of reasons. And based on the song, “Puppies are Forever” by Sia, it’s clear that the talented artist and animal welfare advocate agrees. So, is it possible to ethically give a puppy or kitten as a Christmas gift? In this article, we explore the complexities and moral dilemmas of gifting live animals as gifts, and how you can potentially mitigate those concerns. If you’re considering giving a pet as a gift, keep reading. We can help you decide if it’s the right thing to do.
Some People HATE the Idea of Pets for Christmas
The concept of giving a puppy or kitten as a Christmas gift has garnered criticism – and for an important reason. Some shelters report higher surrender rates after the holidays. Many critics argue that gifting animals encourages impulsive adoption, with little preparedness and concern for the pet’s wellbeing. Moreover, there’s the issue of gifting someone a pet who can’t afford to take care of it. Cats and dogs are more than just adorable companions, they’re major financial commitments that can wrack up thousands of dollars in vet bills.
Not only that but cute puppies and kittens grow into adult dogs and cats. In Sia’s song, “Puppies are Forever,” she sheds light on the concerns associated with the impulsive decision to give pets as presents, writing:
“Puppies are forever, not just for Christmas
‘Cause they’re so cute and fluffy with shiny coats
But will you love ’em when they’re old and slow?”
While the intention behind such gestures may be pure, the long-term consequences for both the animals and their new owners should not be underestimated. Unfortunately, the reality is that many people do give pets as gifts and fail to think of the eventual ramifications. This can result in innocent animals being bounced around from home to shelter, and sometimes to the streets as well.
But, Some People Still Love Getting Pets Over the Holidays
But here’s the real question: Are there really higher rates of animal surrender after the holidays compared to the rest of the year?
Surprisingly, research shows the exact opposite. A study published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association found that dogs given as presents were much less likely to be brought to a shelter than those who were adopted by the owner directly. Another study by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) found that 96% of people who received a pet as a present thought it either increased their attachment to their pet or had no impact on attachment at all, regardless of whether it was a surprise.
And some positives can’t be denied. Most people have more time off during the holidays and therefore can devote more time and attention to their new pet, and there’s no denying that a new furry family member can truly make Christmas magical. The key, however, lies in approaching this decision with careful consideration and responsible planning.
Should You Give an Animal as a Gift?
The answer to this question isn’t a simple yes or no. Organizations like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) argue that animals should never be given as Christmas presents and that a gift certificate to cover the adoption fees from a shelter is a much better idea.
While we agree that a gift certificate is a fabulous idea, we also believe that it is very possible to gift an animal friend responsibly. It’s all about the preparation, education, and circumstances surrounding the adoption. More on that next!
Can I Ethically Adopt a Pet for Christmas?
Yes! But how exactly should you gift a puppy or kitten for Christmas? First and foremost, there needs to be at least one adult who assumes total and complete responsibility for the animal’s wellbeing. Second, the pet should never be a (complete) surprise to that person. Thus, if you’re “giving” your significant other a pet, it should be a pet you’ve already discussed and planned for at length, and one that you would have adopted anyways.
If you’re giving your children or child the gift of a furry companion this Christmas, we recommend using it as a way to educate them about the lasting commitment that comes with pet ownership. Perhaps you plan it out with them, reading books about the right pet for you and how to care for it. Then, you happen to choose the time around Christmas to finally adopt.
If you choose to make it more of a surprise for your kids, just don’t skip the education and preparation. The most important part of animal adoption is understanding and planning for how your new pet will fit into your family, and what you can do to make their transition successful. Kids should be a part of this process, and an informed adult should ultimately be responsible for the animal’s wellbeing.
Are you ready to adopt a new pet? Here are the 10 best pet adoption websites.
Avoid The 5 Biggest Problems With Giving Animals as Presents
Now let’s explore the most common problems surrounding giving animals as presents and what you can do to mitigate them.
1. The Overstimulation of Christmas
The holiday season is known for its festivities, gatherings, and excitement. Adding a new pet to the mix can lead to overstimulation, making it challenging for the animal to adjust. This is especially problematic if your new pet has just been spayed or neutered and is therefore recovering from surgery. All new pets should have a calm and comfortable environment to acclimate to gradually, and Christmas morning can be the exact opposite of this.
To overcome this issue, it’s essential to plan ahead. Perhaps you decide to keep Christmas festivities minimal and make the holiday about ensuring your new family member is calm and comfortable. Give them their own quiet room with all the essentials and keep noise to a minimum. You could also choose to adopt in the weeks after Christmas Day and use that time to educate your family about the adoption and care for their new pet.
2. No Pet Should Be a Surprise
The idea of surprising a family member with a pet is super exciting, but keep in mind that no pet should be a surprise to the person ultimately responsible for the animal’s wellbeing. This usually means the responsible adult. Thus, never give an adult who you don’t live with the surprise gift of a pet. They may not be prepared financially or practically, which unfortunately increases the chances of surrender.
If you want to surprise your kids at Christmas, consider surprising them with an educational book about the pet you want to adopt and telling them the exciting news along with it. This way, your kiddos will be just as excited, but they’ll have time to understand what this new responsibility entails.
3. It Teaches Children to View the Pet as an Object
Children are often the primary recipients of surprise pet gifts during the holidays. While the initial excitement is undeniable, it’s crucial to teach children that pets are living beings with emotions and needs. If the new puppy or kitten is among the new toys under the tree, this may unintentionally send the signal that their new pet can be played with and discarded as most new toys are.
To mitigate this, send a clear message that their new furry (or scaly, or feathery) family member comes with responsibilities. Teach them about how to care for their new pet ahead of time, and assign age-appropriate responsibilities. Again, this is best done when the surprise on Christmas is the news itself and not the actual pet. Encouraging responsible pet ownership helps instill empathy and compassion in young minds.
4. It Can Easily Become a Rushed Decision Process
The holiday season can be hectic, and decisions made in haste may not be the best for the well-being of the pet. Rushed decisions can lead to choosing a pet that may not be the right fit for the family or adopting without considering the long-term commitment involved. Moreover, trying to finalize the adoption for Christmas morning can be disappointing and stressful for all involved.
Because of this, we highly recommend letting go of any deadlines. If you don’t bring home your new pet on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, all the better. Timing it perfectly for a specific day can be near-impossible, and it doesn’t make the gift any less special. In other words, try not to be too rigid about your timeline and instead ensure that the well-being of the animal comes first.
5. Don’t Underestimate the Amount of Work a New Pet Can Be
Caring for a pet requires time, effort, and financial commitment. Underestimating the amount of work involved can lead to frustration and disappointment for you, your family, and the pet. Before bringing a new cat or dog into the home, it’s essential to educate oneself about the specific needs of your new family member and be prepared for the responsibilities that come with pet ownership. Puppies and kittens are cute, but remember, they are lots of work!
On the Fence About Getting A Pet for Christmas? Try Fostering for the Holidays!
If you’re thinking twice about gifting a puppy or kitten for Christmas, fostering can be an excellent alternative. Fostering allows individuals or families to provide temporary care for a pet, helping them understand the responsibilities and challenges associated with pet ownership without the lifelong commitment. Whether you decide to foster a cat or a dog, we highly recommend getting involved with your local animal shelter to understand their needs. Remember, not only will you be giving that animal a cozy home instead of a kennel, but you’ll be freeing up space in the shelter and therefore saving lives.
Make Every Day Magical by Adopting a Furr-ever Pet, Not Just a Christmas Surprise
The decision to bring a pet into your home should be a well-thought-out, responsible choice that considers the needs and well-being of the animal. While the holiday season is a time of giving, the gift of a puppy or kitten comes with a commitment that extends far beyond Christmas morning. By approaching pet adoption with care, consideration, and awareness, you can ethically adopt on the holidays. But remember: the goal is to create a loving bond with your new furry companion that lasts their lifetime. Remember, puppies and kittens are forever, not just for Christmas!
Are you thinking about adopting a new pet this holiday season? Let us know in the comments below!
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