Auburn's College of Veterinary Medicine gives tips on deciding if a pet should be on the holiday gift list

Published: December 18, 2014
Updated: October 09, 2017
Font Size

Article body

AUBURN UNIVERSITY – Giving a pet as a holiday gift can bring joy to a household but should be a well thought-out decision.

Dr. Robert Lofton, a retired private-practice veterinarian who is now a clinical faculty member teaching community practice to fourth-year students at the Auburn University Veterinary Clinic, says that more than 30 percent of all pets given as a gift for Christmas won't be living in the same home within one year.

"It's not always because the pet dies or because the pet is bad," Lofton said. "Many times it's because the person who received the pet didn't realize the amount of responsibility they were taking on, and aren't capable of caring for the animal."

To ensure the pet will be loved and cared for and that the owner is prepared to accept the responsibility of pet ownership, Lofton provides suggestions to consider before deciding to leave a pet under the tree: 

  1. Pets are living creatures with their own traits and personalities. Some breeds can live 10 years or more and a potential pet owner should be prepared to devote time, love, care and patience.

  2. A potential pet owner should consider if they are willing to put up with inconveniences and mishaps such as accidents, stains and scratches in exchange for companionship and love.

  3. Research different breeds. A Border Collie is an energetic working dog that requires physical activity, while a British Shorthair is a laid-back, affectionate cat and is a great indoor pet. Some breeds can live 10 years or more.

  4. Consider the age of the animal and the owner. A puppy might be a great fit for a child but may be a poor choice for an elderly person, who might do better with an older, calmer cat.

  5. A pet owner should be prepared to train a pet to their needs and invest the time and energy to do so. Puppies need more training in obedience and interacting with others.

  6. Research the needs of indoor/outdoor pets. Indoor pets require house training, while outdoor pets need fencing to prevent escape and a proper living space to protect it from the elements.

  7. Consider living conditions. For a busy person or one who lives in a small apartment, a Great Dane might not be the best choice. For a household with small children, consider introducing the pet and the child to acclimate both. Animals bite and scratch out of fear or a change in environment so it is important to consider options when making decisions about breeds and family lifestyles.

  8. Consider finances, as pet ownership can be expensive. Different breeds require different needs – food, heath care and grooming. Understand the cost of pet ownership to be a responsible, loving owner.

  9. Consider the source when purchasing a pet. For a show dog, look to professional breeders. For a companion animal, check out the local animal shelter which has a wonderful selection of animals who need love.

  10. When considering giving a child a pet, it might be a good idea to give a picture of the animal instead and the actual pet at a later date. Waiting until after Christmas can help ensure that a child differentiates a pet from other gifts, and helps emphasize that a pet requires more care than most gifts. It also helps the parent, who will need to spend time orienting the pet and the child.

  11. A new pet owner should prepare the house and the family before the pet comes into the home. After researching requirements for the new pet, owners should purchase needed food, grooming materials and other essentials. A baby gate can be used to keep pets contained.

  12. If you are planning to give a pet as a gift to someone else, apply these recommendations to the future pet owner. Make sure the new owner wants the responsibility and is willing and able to care for it properly.

Pets enrich the lives of their owners; keeping these tips in mind when considering gifting a pet will help ensure that you are prepared and that the pet will be a well-loved companion for many years.

Related Links