Pets as Holiday Gifts (2017)

kitten with decorated ferns

Giving a pet as a gift this holiday season may seem like a wonderful idea, but pets require care and commitment that extends long after the holiday season. Surprising loved ones with a fuzzy friend is tempting, but there are a number of facts to first consider in order to avoid being unprepared when bringing a pet home.

Giving the gift of companionship requires a considerable amount of research and preparation. There can be many reasons why a pet may be unsuitable for a home, such as if the receiver is not financially or mentally prepared for a pet. Dr. Stacy Eckman, clinical assistant professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, explained how pets can often come with hidden expenses.

“Pets, even healthy ones, require a financial commitment for basic needs, such as food, collars, and leashes, as well as medical needs, such as basic vaccinations,” she said. “Unexpected illnesses or injury may also add to that financial burden, which can be too much for some owners to handle.”

Other reasons a pet may not be an appropriate gift is if the receiver is allergic to pets, if the receiver does not have an appropriate place to keep the pet, or if the receiver does not want or have time to commit to a pet.

Taking care of a cat or dog is a responsibility that is often simplified in the minds of children, but the reality is that pets need care throughout their entire lifetime. Giving a pet as a gift to children who are not yet responsible enough to care for it can lead to pets being seen as “play-things” rather than living and dependent animals, Eckman said.

Adults often take on the responsibilities of feeding, bathing, and cleaning up after the pet when the initial newness of the pet wears off. But sometimes adults are guilty of neglecting the pet, too, especially if they were unaware of the financial commitment from the beginning. This can lead to many pets entering shelters for the remainder of their lives or until another family adopts them, Eckman said.

Although there are many reasons why giving a pet as a gift can be a bad idea, a pet can make a great holiday gift for someone if the proper amount of research and preparation is done. If the receiver has expressed their commitment to a pet, proven their responsibility, and are financially and mentally ready for a pet, the gift giver must then consider the receiver’s pet preferences for gender and breed.

Adoption is also a great option, especially if the new owner prefers an older dog or cat. Many pets are patiently waiting in shelters for a forever home, and the adoption staff at a shelter will be able to help you choose the perfect pet for the new owner, Eckman said.

Although giving a pet as a gift this holiday season may seem like a good idea, there is a considerable amount of research and preparation involved in bringing a pet into a new home, especially if it is a surprise to the new owner. If the receiver has proven their responsibility and expressed their desire for a new fuzzy companion, be sure to consider their pet preferences, as well as adoption.

Pet Talk is a service of the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. Stories can be viewed on the web at Suggestions for future topics may be directed to

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