The holidays are coming, and with them comes the pressure of getting the perfect gift for that special person in your life.
You might think a new puppy or kitten is the right way to go — even the ASPCA now says it’s probably fine to gift a pet. But here’s why I think pets make terrible gifts.
1. Pets Are Personal
Choosing a new member of the household is deeply personal. This animal will be part of the household for years to come. Whoever gets a pet should choose which pet to bond with.
A pet isn’t a “thing” — it’s a living, breathing, years-long commitment.
2. Are Friends Serious About a New Pet?
Your friends or family may talk about getting a pet, but do they really mean it? Pets take time, energy and money.
Since my German Shepherd died, I’ve missed having a dog in the house. I talk about getting another one all the time. I also realize I don’t have time to care for another pet right now, so even though I talk about it, it would actually be super stressful if someone gifted me a dog.
“The gift of a pet can be a burden to the one who receives it, but it can also be the wrong thing for the pet,” says Sheryl Eberly, writing in her book 365 Manners Kids Should Know.
The plain truth? It costs a lot of money to care for pets properly. Do your intended gift recipients have the financial security to provide regular veterinary visits, food, supplies and medication?
According to Bankrate, the annual average cost to keep a dog is $580–$875; a cat comes out to around $670.
And that’s just for regular care. If a pet gets sick, costs can easily reach well over $1,000 — not a very nice gift for anyone.
4. Pets Are Not Allowed in Some Places
It’s no secret that many landlords do not allow pets. We love our animals, but they can be tough on property. If your recipient rents a house or an apartment now or in the future, pets may not be allowed on the premises.
According to the American Humane Association, “Approximately 8 million animals end up in shelters each year, and moving-related issues are among the most common reasons for pet relinquishment.”
It’s never a good idea to hide a pet from landlords. They usually find out, and then the person responsible could face large fees and eviction.
The Scottish SPCA suspends adoptions around the holidays:
5. Holiday Madness
Especially during the holidays, pets make terrible gifts. Here’s why:
- Many people travel this time of year and won’t be home to care for a new pet.
- There’s more foot traffic in and out of homes, giving new pets a chance to escape. Pets who have not had a chance to bond with their new family are less likely to return after running away.
- A lot of food is set out and mostly unguarded, giving new pets who have not learned the house rules a much greater opportunity to get sick from eating chocolate or other dangerous foods.
As the book Pets and the Planet puts it, “Baby ducks, rabbits, puppies, kittens, snakes — gifts of pets are a mistake. Give a gift of a book about a pet, or a ticket to a zoo, or a contribution to your local humane society instead.”
Here’s my suggestion: Offer to pay the adoption fees if your friend or loved one wants to rescue an animal. This means you’ll adopt the pet together — one who is just right in every way.