People sometimes have grand visions of surprising their loved one on Christmas morning with an adorable new puppy or a precious, little kitten. While the sentiment is nice, giving a pet as a gift might be a bad choice for a variety of reasons.
One, the recipient may not want a pet.
“I see it all the time,” Veterinarian Dr. Paige Stroud says. “Kids may get their elderly mom a dog that she really doesn’t want. Or the kids give her a Labrador but what she really wanted was a Chihuahua.”
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals agrees, recommending that pets only be given as gifts if the recipient has expressed a specific desire to own one and also has the means and time to care for the animal.
“Animals, like us, require love and proper care to flourish,” PETA spokesperson Ben Williamson says.
If the recipient of the gift has confirmed that they want a pet, then a few other things should be considered in the selection. Will your loved one have the time and patience to exercise and housetrain the animal? Is your loved one prepared to pay for food, accessories, inoculations and veterinary care, including spaying or neutering, flea treatment, deworming and emergency care?
“Keeping a pet is expensive, and giving one as a gift saddles the recipient with vet and supply costs for the rest of the pet’s life,” Stroud says.
In addition to cost considerations, the recipient’s medical situation should be taken into account.
“There may be medical issues that the person doesn’t discuss, but that would make giving a pet as a gift a bad choice,” Stroud says. “This primarily concerns immunosuppressive conditions.”
According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, those families who wish to give pets as gifts to their children have a few additional things to think about. Many children are too young to properly care for the pet or may lose interest in taking responsibility for it after the novelty has worn off.
“The truth is, you’re not buying your kids a pet; you are buying yourself a pet,” Stroud says. “The adult is responsible for the pet, not the child. It’s fine to consider the pet a member of the family. However, when it comes down to legal ownership and responsibility, the pet fully belongs to the parent.”
If, after careful consideration, a pet is deemed an appropriate gift for a loved one, Stroud says it’s imperative that the recipient be involved in the selection of the pet.
“Picking a pet should be done by the person who will be living with the pet,” Stroud says. “Even young kittens and puppies have distinct personalities. The human and pet need to have compatible personalities in order to have a good relationship, and no one else is going to be able to judge that.”
So, before setting sights on gifting a new puppy or kitten, be certain that it’s appropriate and desired.