Should you give a pet as a Christmas gift?

While a pet can bring joy and happiness to your home, the holidays are usually not the best time to welcome a new one. Before you start thinking about which ribbon will look best on your little furry bundle, consider the challenges below.

A new pet needs you, and the holidays are busy enough

Whether it’s teaching basic commands to a puppy or getting your kitten used to their litter box, a new pet requires extra time and effort from you until they become comfortable with their new environment. Between family gatherings, cooking, days off work, going to bed late and eating off-schedule, the holidays aren’t exactly a stable time to establish a routine.

More than a gift, a pet is a friend, not a disposable toy

If children are being introduced to their new furry friend between a gift-wrapped gaming console and doll house, they may not fully understand their pet is a living, breathing and feeling creature. Keeping pet adoption separate from the holidays is a good way to make sure children can fully commit to, and bond with, their pet and not see them as something they can set aside if they grow bored.

It’s really cold outside

Dogs need house training and regular walks to stay in shape and use up their energy. Getting used to this for the first time may be more challenging if you’re facing knee-high snow, brutal cold and little daylight. Consider waiting until warmer months to adopt a dog in order to make this new habit easier on everyone.

Choosing is a key part of adopting a pet

While giving a pet may sound like a nice surprise, you’re actually depriving people of a key part of pet ownership: choosing. Do they prefer training a newborn pet or rescuing a mature animal from a shelter? Do they have a preference of the breed? Male or female? What if they would have absolutely fallen in love with the pet right next to the one you chose? By allowing your loved ones to take part in every step of the process, you’ll strengthen the special bond between them and their new companion.

A pet is a long-time commitment, not a one-time “purchase”

Most pets live between 10 and 20 years and require year-long care: feeding, vaccines, flea and tick control, training, basic supplies, treats and toys, as well as regular appointments to the veterinary clinic (and the occasional emergency visit). Every pet deserves to be in a home where they’ll receive love and care, and not be forced upon someone who’s uncomfortable with handling this much responsibility.

Consider giving “the idea of getting a pet” instead

If you’re still confident giving a pet to your children or partner as a surprise is the right move, consider simply “making the big announcement” instead. Write out a card that explains how you’d like to adopt a pet soon and have everyone involved in the process, so that you can truly welcome your special friend together as a family.