Christmas 2015 is only days away, and last on your list is a gift for the whole family. After scouring the internet and sales flyers you come across a picture of the cutest puppy (or kitten, or bird, or bunny). You can picture the happiness and joy you are about to give as your children open up the basket with the big red bow.
Giving a pet at Christmas sounds like a wonderful gift — but is it really?
Before you open your wallet, ask yourself these questions and be honest with your answers.
1) Are your children old enough to help care for the pet? Are they old enough to understand the responsibility of owning a pet? Who will feed, clean up, train, play and take on the daily upkeep of your pet?
2) Can you afford a pet? Think about the costs of food, kennels/beds, cages, bowls, accessories, toys, veterinarian visits, insurance, training and a myriad of other expenses associated with owning and caring for a pet. These could total thousands of dollars a year.
3) Do you, or your family, have the time for a pet? After the Christmas holidays are over and the schedules and routines go back to normal, how will a pet fit into the dynamics of your activities? Who will train your pet?
Puppies, especially, grow up to be dogs. Training is required for them to become a valued member of a family. Without training, a boisterous and unsocialized pet can be a very unpleasant experience. (Picture a 100-pound dog jumping up on your five-year-old child and you’ll get the idea.) Some pets are not as needy as others and can live happily with less attention–but all pets need basic care and love.
4) Are you committed to having your pet for 20 years? Some cat and dog breeds can live up to 20 years and longer. Can you commit to offer the requirements for the life of a pet? What would you do if one of your family members has allergies? What would you do if a current pet doesn’t get along with the new one? And, not the least of concerns, what would you do if you had to move?
Respectable shelters, rescues and breeders will NOT sell you a gifted animal for the Christmas holidays. They are very much aware of what happens when the excitement dies down and the parents are left with the responsibility of their purchase.
Here are a few solutions that may help:
a) Foster. Animal rescues and shelters are always searching for foster homes for their rescued animals. Most supply everything from vet care and food, to kennels and support. Do your research– as not all rescues and shelters have the same policies. Specific breed rescues can help if you have a certain pet in mind. Fostering also teaches your children about responsibilities and respecting animals without the long-term commitment of ownership.
b) If your heart is still set on the purchase of a new pet, get started with purchasing accessories as the family gift. A kennel, bed, cage, food and toys will bring as much anticipation and excitement. Then do your research and go as a family to find your new addition.
This is a forever decision — not just a Christmas wish.