Many people receive pets as a gift during the holidays. Maybe you saw a cute kitten during your holiday shopping spree or your child has wanted a puppy for months. Holiday movies, television programs, and advertisements seem to make it seem like the best time to give a pet is under the tree on Christmas morning. However, not all Christmas pets live up to the hype and bringing a new animal into the home during a chaotic holiday season can lead to just the opposite of a positive beginning for the pet and the family.
Whatever the reason, adopting a pet should never be an impulse decision. Before adding a pet to your family, ask yourself these questions:
- Do you have the energy for a pet? Pets, especially dogs, require exercise and active playtime to be happy and healthy. The last thing you want on Christmas morning is a frightened, cowering little animal that is overwhelmed by the kids squealing with excitement and begging for the opportunity to hold the new family member. While young animals are often cute and cuddly, they can take a lot of time to train. Consider getting an adult pet whose size, habits, house-training, and personality are fully developed.
- Is your living space suitable for a pet? Is your home safe? If you are renting, does your landlord allow a pet? Do you have furniture that can tolerate chewing or clawing? It’s important to research the type of pet that might do best in your home. For example, large dogs or birds do not usually do well in small apartments. In addition, on Christmas morning everyone is tearing into gifts and strings and wrapping can be hazardous to a new animal.
- Can you afford a pet? Routine veterinary care, food, grooming, toys, and other expenses can add up fast. Be sure you can afford proper care for your pet before bringing it home.
- Are you committed to having a pet? Some pets live long lives (like birds, dogs, or some reptiles). Are you prepared to care for the pet for that long? How does the pet fit in with your family’s lifestyle? Never choose a pet based on how cute they look. Know the breed and type of animal you are choosing and understand what their needs are before deciding to get one for the family. For example, birds are highly social, often live much longer than dogs (some can live for many decades) and can become stressed when kept in a cage. Dogs do not do well when left alone all day while the family is away at work or school. No matter how cute a pet is, understanding their needs is important to ensuring the best life for that animal.
- Who will be caring for the pet? Children, while they may promise to take care of the new animal, may not have a lot of time to spend with the animal as they get older and have more social engagements. Pets can change a family’s day-to-day schedule. Who will walk, feed, train, or clean up after the animal? Discussing this ahead of time helps ensure the least amount of stress on the family AND the pet.
- Is the whole family on board with the decision to add a pet to the family? If not, it may be worth waiting until the issue is discussed further. Is there an alternative to a new pet? For example, instead of getting a new pet, you may want to make donations to the local animal shelter. Or you can wrap up a stuffed animal as a “pet promise” that lets your child know that when the whole family is prepared, you will go out and select a new pet.
- If you do decide to get a pet, prepare your home. Busy holidays, with decorations, foods, and lots of people in and out of the home can cause the new pet to be frightened, and bad habits can form. Frightened animals can bite, may soil the floors, escape from the home and get lost or worse, or may hide in places that are difficult to reach. Your pet’s first experiences in your home should be calm, positive, and safe.
By thoughtfully considering these questions, you help ensure that your new pet will be a happy, healthy, well-adjust addition to your family.
Pet MD. (2017). Will you be getting a pet for Christmas? Retrieved December 10, 2017 from https://www.petmd.com/dog/seasonal/evr_pets_for_christmas#
Porter, M. (2017). Thinking about getting a dog for Christmas? 10 Things you should consider. Retrieved December 10, 2017 from http://www.momtastic.com/parenting/478219-10-things-consider-adopting-dog-holidays/