Pets As Holiday Gifts: Not A Great Choice

Pet shops and breeders make a huge amount of money during the winter holiday season. That's because people believe that puppies, kittens and exotic pets make great gifts. Just the thought of you, a loved one or close friend receiving a bundle of pet joy during the holiday time warms your heart. However, most people end up cooling off to the idea real fast once they discover all the work involved in caring for a new pet. This is especially true during the winter holiday season when visitors stop by frequently, parties are scheduled, guests stay overnight and there is never enough time to do everything you need or want to do.

Each year animal shelters are filled with unwanted pets before and after the holidays. Before, because people that decided to purchase or adopt pets during the summer or fall suddenly realize that they have no one to watch the animals while the make merry. They can't be bothered with the care, feeding and training involved when there are so many holiday errands to run. After, because once the cuteness wears off and a rug or cage has to be cleaned, or the food and veterinarian bills start piling up, the pet is no longer a welcomed member of the family.

I have created a list of suggestions for people that want to purchase or adopt a pet for themselves or someone else over the holidays (it can actually apply anytime):

1. Purchase or adopt a pet for the right reason.

Do you or the person you're giving the pet to really want that pet? People sometimes adopt pets as a stop gap measure for other things happening in their lives. A break up, a divorce, illness, to feel better or wanted: these and many other things are not good reasons for new pet ownership. Neither is the stirring of a bruised conscious. Just because the local shelter goes on TV and displays pets they say must be adopted or they will be destroyed doesn't mean that you are the best candidate for such an adoption. Emotional response is also a bad reason to bring a pet into your life.

Purchase or adopt a pet because you really want one and are willing to take on all the responsibilities involved. Think of the pet as a person you are inviting into your home. Are you willing to share your place with a pet, take care of it and pay the expenses involved with that care? Can you spare the time to spend with your pet? Many animals require socializing with their owners on a regular basis. The alternative can be negative and destructive behavior to get your attention. Remember, pets can't talk. They can't ask for you to spend time with them.

2. Never surprise anyone with a pet.

Although I am sure that your heart is in the right place when it comes to surprising someone you care about with a cute pet, it's a really bad idea. Pet ownership is something that should be given a lot of thought, discussed and evaluated beforehand. Just because someone once told you they might like a cute pet to keep them company doesn't mean you should arrive with one at their door during the holidays. The holiday season is a terrible time to begin pet ownership. It's just too busy for most people to be able to handle, train and care for a new pet.

No one likes discussing it, but if a pet dies shortly after coming into your home that's a holiday memory that is likely to last for years. It happens more often than you think and this is yet another thing to consider before you purchase or adopt a pet.

3. Decide if you can take on the financial responsibility of a pet.

We can no more predict the future health of an animal than we can predict our own future health. You might purchase or adopt a pet and find that it becomes sick within just days of arriving in your home. Sometimes this is caused by a change of location. Many types of pets are creatures of habit and do not adjust well to sudden changes in their environment. Pets that are already on medications are particularly vulnerable.

It's a dirty little secret that many pet stores and even shelters that offer dogs and cats give them large amounts of antibiotics to get or keep them healthy. Once they leave that environment and the antibiotics stop, the animals can take a nose dive in terms of their health. Are you ready to spend hundreds of even thousands of dollars for emergency veterinarian visits, procedures, medications or even surgeries? If not, pets are not for you.

4. Read the fine print on contracts or agreements before you purchase or adopt.

Many pet stores and shelters have limited return policies and those that do often have fees. With few exceptions, you can't test drive a pet. Once you leave the store or shelter, the animal belongs to you. Pet stores and shelters are very strict when it comes to these matters and others outlined in your agreement or contract with them. Read and re-read any purchase or adoption agreements or contracts before you sign on the dotted line and make sure you can live up to them.

Due to the irresponsibility of many pet owners, most cities and towns now have laws that require pet owners to vaccinate or have some type of veterinarian procedures completed as part of their pet ownership. Failure to comply with these laws may cause confiscation of the pet with any and all fees involved (including care, housing and vet fees incurred by the jurisdiction) passed on to the owner. Penalties for failure to comply or pay fees can result in everything from driver license suspension, to receiving a ticket or summons or even arrest on felony charges.

5. Discuss pet ownership with everyone living in your home before you take the plunge.

When you bring a pet into your home, it becomes everyone's pet. While you may think of it as being yours, everyone living with you will probably have to make some sort of an adjustment in their lives to accommodate your new pet. Not everyone may be willing to do that. This can cause arguments and disagreements. That might mean that your pet will eventually end up homeless and that is so unfair to any animal. Discuss pet ownership with your family before you purchase or adopt. Spell out any and all changes in lifestyle that may result from having your new pet in the home.

I am not trying to be a Scrooge by keeping anyone from pet ownership by purchase or adoption. However, the things I have shared with you are based on what I have seen happen in the lives of my family and friends over the years. I am hoping to help you and any pets you might think about bringing into your home to avoid disaster. Happy Holidays!

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