Giving Pets as Surprise Gifts…Here’s Why It’s a Bad Idea

With Christmas approaching and everyone getting all of their shopping done, there’s one thing that should never be on the gift-giving list: surprising someone with a pet as a present. While it may originally seem like a beautiful gesture to give your recently widowed aunt a little kitten or surprise your friend with her first pet, it may not end well for the animal. Too many pets  given as surprise gifts in December end up in shelters before the first Spring thaw and sometimes as early as right after the New Year.

You may feel giving a pet to someone would be a kind and loving gesture. If you’re thinking about adopting a pet from a shelter you may also be convinced that it would be a way to save an animal as well. Here are reasons why pets shouldn’t be given as surprise gifts:

It’s a Relationship

There has to be a connection between the new pet parent and the animal. Just because you think someone may like orange cats doesn’t mean the orange cat YOU picked out is the right one. When you decide to add a pet to your life, you typically spend time at the shelter looking until your heart says you’ve found the one for you. If you’re rescuing an animal you’re still making your own decision about that emotional connection.

This is a Forever Home

The recipient of the pet may be overjoyed initially but unprepared for the lifelong commitment. How many times have you seen someone thrilled at the surprise of receiving a puppy or kitten for Christmas but then the novelty wears off as the animal grows into an adult and isn’t as “cute” anymore. The recipient may also not be prepared for the lifelong care the animal will need. You may think that beautiful Persian kitten would be a great surprise but if the recipient isn’t capable or willing to do the necessary daily grooming, the cat will suffer.

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Puppies and kittens given as surprise gifts, in many cases, may end up outdoors, in the garage once they’ve grown up. You may have certain beliefs about how animals should be cared for and the recipient may have very different views that could affect your relationship. For example, if you think cats should live exclusively indoors and you find that the cat you gifted to your friend has outdoor access in a busy neighborhood, it could create friction.

Life for many animals given as gifts could end up lonely. Surprising someone with a gift may provide temporary joy but long-term unhappiness for both the new pet parent and the pet.

Lack of Preparation

Before a pet is brought in, pet-proofing and other preparations should be done. Getting a dog for someone who lives on a busy street and doesn’t have a fenced-in yard may just be creating more of headache for the recipient. Without proper preparation and safe-guarding, it can put the animal at risk.

There is a Financial Responsibility

Even if you acquire a pet who has had the first round of vaccinations or even the complete set, there’ll be a financial responsibility to maintain the pet’s health over a lifetime. In addition to food and pet supplies, there will be veterinary costs. The recipient may not be able or willing to invest in the maintaining the animal’s care. Regardless of whether you purchase a pet or adopt one for free, that animal will require a lifelong financial commitment. Surprising someone who is financially unable or unwilling to care for a pet isn’t fair to the person and it certainly isn’t fair to the pet.

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Lifestyle Change

Living with a pet creates a lifestyle change. Someone who lives alone may actually prefer that and not want the responsibility of caring for an animal. Pets need routine and the recipient may not want to live that way and may prefer their current lifestyle.

Bringing home a pet will mean that total dependence upon the pet parent for food, water, healthcare, happiness, safety and companionship. People often make the mistake of thinking that a cat would be a good gift because of the impression that they’re low maintenance. As a result, the cat may end up lonely and may not receive enough enrichment to truly thrive.

The Hectic Holiday

Even if you’re very sure someone would enjoy receiving a pet as a gift, doing so during the holidays puts extra stress on everyone, including the animal. There’s so much going on during the holiday and a new pet in the home requires attention. You have to make sure the environment is safe, get everything set up and then work on helping the pet get comfortable in the new surroundings. It can be very easy to forget to walk the puppy or keep track of a kitten’s location when you have a houseful of company. The first few days the new pet is in the home should be without major distractions so you can help create an easier adjustment.

Here’s a Better Idea

If you want to help someone find a perfect pet match, wait until after the holidays and take the time to help in the preparation and any necessary education. Let the potential recipient decide whether a pet is what they want and if so, let them make the connection. If you know someone who would truly benefit from the companionship and truly desires to add a pet to their life but may have some financial or physical limitations, would you be willing to step in and help when needed? It may involve taking the pet to the veterinarian, helping ensure the pet has proper nutrition,  coming over to do nail trims or whatever else may be needed.

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