Pets as Holiday Gifts (2017)

kitten with decorated fernsGiving 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 vetmed.tamu.edu/pet-talk. Suggestions for future topics may be directed to editor@cvm.tamu.edu.

Holiday Travel: Should Pets Come Along?

pets near a decorated christmas treeWill you be traveling this holiday season? If so, will you bring your dog or cat with you? Some pets love traveling with their owners, but others should be left at home with a trusted caregiver that will take good care of your pet. You may also consider taking your pet to a highly recommended boarding facility. How can you decide the best option for your dog or cat?

If you have a cat, Dr. Stacy Eckman, clinical assistant professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, said most cats are best left at home with a pet sitter.

“This allows the cat to stay in its own environment,” Eckman said. “If a pet sitter is not an option, then a boarding facility with a separate cat area is a good idea.”

If you have a dog, they can also be housed in a boarding facility. Boarding facilities house a large number of kennels for dogs and cats to stay in. The kennels are various sizes and some may even have outdoor access. However, if you choose to board your pet, be sure that the boarding facility is clean and your pets are up-to-date on all required vaccinations. Vaccines can help protect your pet from common viruses found in boarding facilities.

You should also ask yourself: “How often are the pets fed? Does the staff seem knowledgeable and caring? Are veterinary services available? Will my pet be comfortable in the kennels provided? Will my pet get adequate exercise?” Eckman said.

In addition, be sure to tour the facility before you decide to use their services. This will help in deciding the best boarding kennel for your pet.

If a pet sitter or boarding facility isn’t your pet’s style, perhaps they would rather be with you. Taking your pet for a road trip is certainly an option; just be sure to secure your pet in a kennel and give your pet a bathroom break every two hours.

If your pet will be traveling on an airplane, bus, or train, please make sure to call ahead to make arrangements for their travel. You may need to pay additional costs to travel with your pet and provide up-to-date shot records.

As a guest at another person’s house, be sure to let your host know that you’re bringing a furry friend. Keep in mind that your pet will be in a different environment with new people, smells, and potentially other pets, so keep a watchful eye on them. If other pets are in the house, consider providing a safe space for your pet where they can be alone.

With the holidays just around the corner, be sure to make arrangements for your pets if you plan on traveling. Knowing your pets are happy and safe during the holidays is the best gift of all.

Pet Talk is a service of the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. Stories can be viewed on the web at vetmed.tamu.edu/pet-talk. Suggestions for future topics may be directed to editor@cvm.tamu.edu.