Animals as Gifts

Kate Hoehn

Holidays, Birthdays, and Anniversaries can be a stressful time for those faced with one difficult question: What do I give for a gift? Many choose from a standard list including items such as iPods, cameras, and other electronics, as well as appliances and clothing. Now more than ever, people are opting to give pets, with kittens and puppies seemingly the most popular; as gifts to their loved ones.

Pets can make irreplaceable companions and unbeatable gifts, which I found out first-hand on three separate occasions. I received Sadie B, a Pomeranian for Christmas the year I turned eight years old; Bailey, a German Shepherd for my seventeenth birthday; and Cliff (also known as Heath Cliff), a spontaneous present when the seven week old orange kitten was in need of a good home. While it is true that pets bring us untold joy and wonderful companionship, they are also a huge responsibility.

I have had nothing but good luck with my companions given as presents. But, there are things to be aware of and take into consideration, when it comes to giving an animal as a gift. When I received Sadie as a child, my parents were aware and supportive of the puppy being given to me. If you are considering surprising a child with a pet, absolutely do not make it a surprise to the parents. Have the parents participate in picking out not only the species and breed of animal, but also the specific critter that shall be adopted into their home and family. This will help ensure that the animal is the right fit for the family. A child is not capable of taking full care of a puppy or kitten or paying veterinary bills, so there must be an adult willing to take responsibility for the new addition. My parents were the ones to give me Sadie, so they were aware that they would be performing many of the daily necessities to care for a puppy.

If you are going to be giving a teenager a dog or cat, you should plan for the future. What will happen to the animal when it is time for the teen to move out for go to college? No surprise introductions. Have the recipient of the gift pick out and meet the animal before adopting, and again, get the blessing from the parents if the animal will be living in their household. I refused to leave Bailey with my parents when the time came for me to move out on my own. Having a German Shepherd made it nearly impossible to live on any college campus, and continues to make it difficult to find an apartment. Many landlords do not allow pets, especially large dogs with somewhat misconstrued reputations. Since I knew all of this when I adopted Bailey, I have no regrets.

Think twice about your plan to put that puppy or kitten under the Christmas tree this year. In general, Christmas or the first night of Hanukkah are not appropriate times for introducing an animal to a new home. There is usually too much activity for an animal to be properly welcomed into a new environment.
Many humane organizations simply will not adopt out an animal for the purpose of holiday gift giving because, sadly, up to half of them end up back at their doorsteps.
In order to prevent an animal given as a gift from being abused, neglected, or abandoned, it is crucial to make sure that the recipient really wants an animal. Is that person ready, responsible, and stable enough to take care of an animal?

While getting a young puppy from a breeder is great, consider adopting a dog or cat from a shelter, it could save a life. Most humane societies require interviews with the potential adopter and all of the adults living in the household before making a decision to adopt out a dog or cat. Let the person know about the wonderful gift you want to give them, because they are a vital part of the process of welcoming a new pet.

Another option for helping a loved one get a pet, is to give a gift certificate to be used at a shelter when the time is right. Also, consider pairing the gift certificate with a gift basket filled with all of the things that a new pet will need, such as toys, a collar and leash, treats, food, and bedding, as well as books on training, breeds, and living with an animal.