Should you give a pet as a Christmas present?

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With the year coming to an end, attention is starting to slowly turn towards Christmas, which can only mean one thing: presents.

The festive period is often known as a time where you eat too much, drink too much and spend too much. It’s also known for being the time when you have the chance to reacquaint with your friends and family, to recap the year gone by.

However, in the world of pets, Christmas is a slightly less glamorous time of year. Back in 2015, the RSPCA reported that hundreds of pets were simply abandoned on the streets after the festivities had finished, exemplifying why the phrase ‘dogs are for life, not just for Christmas’ is so important.

There may be literally hundreds upon hundreds of potential present ideas but, whenever Christmas approaches, giving pets away as presents starts to surface as a ‘great’ gift idea. While there may be nothing wrong with this in principle, many people forget to consider the practicalities of pet ownership.

After all, pets are not typical Christmas presents – they are living, breathing animals who need proper care. They’re an investment and, when well looked after, can become a fully-fledged member of the family.

Therefore, before you go ahead and decide to buy a pet for your child, partner or whoever, ask yourself some of the key questions listed below. If the answer to any of them is ‘no’, then you should think twice about giving them a pet as a Christmas present.

1.     Do they even like or want a pet?

Just because you personally love pets and would love one for Christmas yourself, it’s important to consider whether the person you are buying for actually wants one too. They may have had chats with you in the past hinting towards it but, at the end of the day, it shouldn’t be up to you to decide for them.

Unless they have specifically said otherwise, it’s generally a good idea to give them the freedom to decide for themselves if/when they want to get a pet.

2.     Can they physically look after a pet?

Many medical conditions can limit a person’s ability to look after a pet. If, for example, they are allergic to cats or dogs, then buying them a cat or dog is a pretty bad idea – even if they really, really want one.

Dogs, rabbits and certain other types of animal also need regular exercise so, if somebody has a mobility issue, it could be cruel to keep pets, since it could have debilitating effects on their health.

3.     Are they able to afford a pet?

Let’s not beat around the bush here – pets are not cheap. From food and treats, to vet bills and accessories, the costs involved with owning a pet can rack up and up over time. Therefore, without knowing a person’s financial situation, it can be difficult to know whether they’ll actually be able to afford a pet.

Certain pets, like hamsters and goldfish, are obviously a lot cheaper to look after than other pets, like dogs or cats, but that doesn’t make them any less of a commitment. If you know that the person you want to buy the pet for goes away a lot, then buying them a dog – for instance – probably isn’t the best idea.

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4.     Do they have time for a pet?

While on the subject of going away, people live busy lives so may not always have time to actually look after a pet. Working in a full-time job often puts a lot of people off owning a dog, for instance, due to the long hours they would need to be left on their own for.

It’s important to think about it practically. If you don’t think a pet would fit into someone’s life, don’t get them one – even if they want one really, really badly.

5.     Do children understand the responsibilities of pet ownership?

It may make your heart leap for joy seeing the gleaming smile of a son or daughter receiving a pet for the first time, but that memory will only last for so long.

Before you think about buying a pet for a child, it’s vital for them to understand the responsibilities involved with owning a pet – it’s not all as glamorous as having strokes and cuddles on the sofa all the time.

Final thoughts…

Pets can be the best presents ever in the right circumstances. However, they shouldn’t really be thought of as a ‘gift’ – when you buy somebody a pet for Christmas, you are effectively giving them something to look after and stay committed to for many years to come.

Whether it be a dog, cat, hamster, bird, rabbit, ferret, or whatever – pets don’t come with a receipt and cannot simply be exchanged. They’re living things and need to be treated with the right level of love, care and attention, and not just for Christmas – for the rest of their lives as well.

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