Should I Give a Pet for a Christmas Gift?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Most veterinarians repeatedly ask people not to give a pet as a Christmas gift. This is a fairly busy time in most households, and often a time when people leave their home to visit with relatives and friends. New pets can find itself neglected, or possibly injured in an unfamiliar environment. Additionally, certain Christmas items, like tinsel or easily breakable ornaments and Christmas lights, may be extremely dangerous to untrained animals, and can cause death or significant injury.

Young kittens may not be the best choice for a Christmas gift.
Young kittens may not be the best choice for a Christmas gift.

Most new pets, especially puppies and kittens, benefit from a fairly calm and predictable environment when getting used to a home. A Christmas morning puppy or kitten may seem very appealing, but the puppy peeing all over the floor every time well-wishers ring the doorbell is not. If a family plans to have guests to Christmas dinner, this gives the animal immediate misunderstandings about who lives in the house. Most pets need to be secure in their environment before introducing it to guests.

Puppies may get overexcited during the holidays.
Puppies may get overexcited during the holidays.

While a little insecurity or puppy pee is not a danger, the trappings of Christmas can be. As well as the above-mentioned problems, crumpled up wrapping paper may be chewed, chocolate Christmas cake might be ingested, or alcohol imbibed. People visiting are no more used to the new pet than the it is used to them, so this may cause immediate and costly issues. A dog with a full belly of chocolate may require emergency treatment and the bill is quite likely to rob the new owner any remaining Christmas cheer.

Veterinarians recommend pets should be given as gifts after the holidays.
Veterinarians recommend pets should be given as gifts after the holidays.

People often don’t take their travel plans for the holidays into consideration when getting a new pet. Leaving an animal, especially a young one, in an unfamiliar house is quite risky and unkind. Similarly, taking a new pet only to send it off to be boarded a few days later does not really make a lot of sense.

Having a dog is a lifelong commitment.
Having a dog is a lifelong commitment.

Instead, veterinarians recommend that if someone wants to give a pet for Christmas, he or she should make arrangements with a breeder to keep the it until after the New Year. When life settles down to its normal pace, it is far easier to train and bond with the animal. If it is for a child, a picture of their puppy or kitten can be presented on Christmas morning.

Alternately, someone may consider purchasing a pet for the family after the holidays, and not as a gift. This way, children won't be disappointed that a real furry little stranger didn't show up on Christmas morning. If the family is all looking forward to the new pet, a picture can be displayed of the "coming attraction" to the home.

It is acceptable to give a someone a pet for Christmas under some circumstance. For instance, if the person doesn't have a lot of plans for the holiday, then they can more easily accommodate a new animal. A house with young children is likely to be a jolly and chaotic mess around the holidays, however, and these are not ideal conditions for introducing a pet to a household.

The last thing that anyone wants, of course, is to give a pet that will quickly be sent to the shelter. Adopting or purchasing a pet requires careful consideration as to breed, temperament, and housing needs. Many people are swayed by Christmas shopping compulsion and the cute puppy in the window, but cuteness only lasts so long. Bringing a pet home is serious business that requires a 10 to 15 year commitment from its new owners.

Trinkets for pets and gift certificates for pet-supply stores make for good holiday gifts.
Trinkets for pets and gift certificates for pet-supply stores make for good holiday gifts.
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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Discussion Comments

anon135756

I very much agree with commenter 1. Christmas is not a good time to introduce a pet, no matter how cute that scene of a little girl rushing to the tree to find a puppy is.

In reality, if you put a puppy under a tree in the dead of night, the little girl is likely to be woken by a very large crash. It is possible that she will think Santa has fallen in the fireplace, but at any rate when she comes out, the puppy is likely to be whimpering amongst a pile of wee and ornament shards.

Dogs can control themselves, but a tiny puppy who has just been taken away from its family and put into a strange house is not likely to control itself.

Instead of the typical puppy-under-Christmas-tree-for-little-girl-on-snowy-morning scenario, picture this. Little girl comes downstairs and receives all her presents. Then, she is shown a picture of a puppy and promised the puppy at a later date. Excitement builds in the house as the date approaches, and finally the little girl receives her puppy at an appropriate time. Much easier on puppy and parent. a gift certificate like anon57427 said is also a good idea.

anon57459

Thank you! I wish this article was on the news and in all the newspapers. I am an activist for animals and have seen too much neglect and abuse of pets. This is such an informative article.Anyway you could submit it to reach the media? My sincerest thanks once again.

anon57427

Being a dog owner for the last couple decades, I agree it is not a good time to introduce a pet. A much better thing is to give them a gift certificate towards the adoption of a pet at a later time.

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