I am a huge animal lover. Growing up, we had every pet under the sun; I’ve cared for tree frogs, hermit crabs, fish, birds, dogs, bunnies, and much more. But there’s one animal in particular that I’ve always wanted to own: A pig. Pigs are the new puppy. I’ve wanted one for years.
Christmas is coming, and you might think that a pet will make the perfect gift. Think again. While I’d love to find a mini-pig under my tree on Christmas morning, I don’t have the space or the time to care for one. In other words, there are a lot of complications that go along with gifting a pet, even if the potential recipient is an avid animal-lover like me. So if you’re planning on doing your Christmas shopping at the local animal shelter or pet store, here are some things that you should take into account.
Pets can live a long time
That kitten you’re gifting this Christmas? It will still be there next Christmas, the one after that, and most likely all of the Christmases for the next 15-20 years. Pets can live a long time! By gifting a pet, you’re essentially committing the owner to a decade or two of responsibility.
There’s a lot of work involved
My family got our first dog when I was five, and I remember promising to walk her, feed her, and pick up the mess in the backyard. Well, here’s a shocker: None of these things happened. Yes, I would take her for the occasional walk. And I would get out the pooper-scooper under threat of punishment. But for the most part, my parents were the ones who carried the burden of caring for our beloved dog, Minnie.
Caring for a pet is a lot like caring for a child; they require around-the-clock care. This type of responsibility can be exhausting, especially when your dog gets sick in the middle of the night or your scared kitten has trouble adjusting to its new home. Make absolutely sure that the pet owner (or the pet owner’s parents, if you’re gifting to a kid) will be prepared for the amount of work it takes to care for a furry, scaly, or feathery pet.
Pets are expensive
The cat lady across the street was having an adoption special: $50 o/b/o for an adorable kitten! You couldn’t pass it up! What a deal! Turns out, that cute little kitten will actually cost between $600 and $900 annually, says the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). Multiply that cost by 15 years, and you’ve got quite a hefty investment. Will the recipient be able to handle the financial responsibilities of owning a pet? Are they willing to foot the bill for food, toys, vet visits, boarding costs, and more?
The pet might not be the right fit for their household
If you ask me, everyone should have a dog. But that doesn’t mean that everyone can or even wants to. Perhaps their landlord doesn’t allow animals. Or maybe the children are just too young to handle a rambunctious dog or a cat that scratches. Or maybe, just maybe, a Dalmatian is not quite their style. You can’t ever be sure of a family’s tastes or needs. Don’t take a chance on the animal’s welfare by placing it in a household where it might not get the care that it needs.
Their other pets might not be welcoming
My dog-nephew Flynn is the sweetest doggy you will ever meet. When his mama decided to foster another dog for a few weeks, Flynn’s reaction was quite unexpected. He became very territorial, and after just a few hours she had to return the foster dog to the shelter. The moral of the story is that animals can be unpredictable, and even the tamest dogs and cats might not accept a new sibling. By unexpectedly introducing an unfamiliar animal, you’ll be putting them all at risk for injury.
You might not be aware of allergy problems
Can you tell me with absolutely certainty that the recipient won’t be allergic to the animal? Fluffy kittens and puppies are cute, but they also cause allergic reactions in many people. And if this happens, the pet will likely become homeless – and that can have serious implications.
It might get returned
Here’s the blunt truth: According to the ASPCA, approximately five to seven million companion animals enter shelters nationwide every year. Three to four million are euthanized. If you put an animal into a situation where it could end up in a shelter, you are essentially giving it a death sentence. There are millions of homeless animals in the United States that will never find a “forever” home. Don’t be a contributor to these devastating numbers.
There’s a better option
For the friend that expresses interest in owning a pet, consider this: Many shelters now offer adoption gift certificates which allow you to pay the adoption fee for the recipient. Whether or not the recipient ultimately uses the certificate to adopt a pet isn’t important; what’s important is that they will have a chance to carefully consider all of their options before adopting an animal into their home. Call around to local shelters to see if they offer gift certificates.
The bottom line
The decision to become a pet owner is one that pet owners should be able to make for themselves. It’s a highly personal decision, and if your gift doesn’t work out, it could have very serious consequences for the animal. Do what’s right for animals all over our country by gifting your fellow animal-lovers with adoption gift certificates. That way, the recipient will be able to give a home to a pet in need, if and when they are ready.