Pets bring such joy to so many people, it is understandable why some folks might think that giving that source of joy to someone for the holidays would be a unique and thoughtful idea. But what they might not think about is that they are gambling with a living creature’s life by doing so. That becomes crystal clear when you learn that gifted pets account for the largest number of relinquished companion animals.
One-Third of Gifted Cats are Returned
In fact, Petfinder found statistics reveal that for 32 percent of the dogs and 33.2 percent of the cats left in animal shelters, they were given to their owners by a friend. The decision to become a pet guardian is an enormous responsibility and commitment and selecting the right pet is a very personal decision. That choice has to feel right to the pet guardian and no one can tell if a kitty is the best fit for you except for you. Just as you (hopefully) wouldn’t want a friend to select your spouse for you, you should choose your own pet, to ensure that you can make a lifetime commitment to your pet, understanding that a cat can live to be 15-20 years old.
In an American Human Association survey of more than 570 pet adopters in several U.S. cities, 11 percent relinquished their pet back to the shelter within the first six months. Petfinder statistics confirm that, finding that 37.1 percent of dogs and 30 o percent of cats left in animal shelters across the US were kept for between seven months and a year before being relinquished by their owners. When someone hasn’t selected their own pet, one they feel in their heart is the one meant for them, the chances that they will connect to them to make that lifetime commitment will go down drastically.
Another reason it’s not a good idea to give a pet as a holiday gift is simply the timing. Even if the pet overcomes the odds and does land in it’s forever home on the holidays, it’s usually a busy time of year for most people, making it a poor time to acclimate a new pet into the household. Cats thrive on routine, so being able to dedicate your time to helping the kitty get introduced to its new home and learn its new routine is important to a successful acclimation.
Additionally, you may know your friend or family member wants a pet, but you may not be aware of some private or financial issue they are dealing with that makes it not the right time for them to take on the financial commitment of caring for a new pet. Especially around the holidays, people may be spending a little more than usual, making it not an ideal time to take on additional financial responsibilities.
Of course, we understand there’s an exception when a parent is selecting a pet for the household and plans to surprise their kids with a new kitty. However, we do suggest that the children be involved in meeting and selecting the kitty when possible. It’s also important that the parents are realistic about the commitment to care that a child may make that wanes after the initial infatuation fades, as the full burden of pet care should not be the sole responsibility of a young child.
Additionally, it’s important to make the distinction for a small child that a pet is not just another toy, but a living, breathing animal. It’s important to clearly delineate the idea of presents and toys from the realities and responsibilities of pet ownership. When a child is opening a bunch of fun toys she can play with, you don’t want an implication that the new kitty is just another toy the child can play with and toss around like her other toys.
It’s Not Just Christmas We’re Talking About
While this blog is speaking about gifts for the Christmas holiday, there are other occasions where we’ve encountered people looking for a kitty to gift, such as for a birthday or anniversary. It should go without saying, but we’ll say it just to be safe: It’s not a good idea for those occasions anymore than it is for Christmas.
Alternate Gift Ideas
A wonderful gift idea for a friend or relative who you are certain does want a pet is homemade gift card to cover the adoption fee for the pet of their choice, for the time when the adopter feels ready to welcome their new pet into their home. This way, you get to gift them the pet, but they get to choose the right companion for them.
If you think someone might want a pet but aren’t sure, you could gift them a stuffed animal with a card offering to pay the adoption fee for a pet when they are ready and find the right pet. This way, you are giving them some type of gift, but you are not forcing them to take on a responsibility for which they might not be prepared.