A little kitten or puppy might be adorable under the Christmas tree on Christmas morning, but pets don’t make good surprise gifts. While it’s easy to return a shirt you don’t like to the store, returning a pet to a shelter may have serious consequences – returned pets may be euthanized due to lack of available space in the shelter. For that reason, I encourage you to follow these tips when giving a pet as a gift to a loved one.
Should You Give a Pet As a Gift?
Giving a pet as a gift isn’t always a terrible idea. However, there are some important things to consider before giving a pet as a gift. Most importantly, you need to talk at length with the gift recipient about it beforehand. Surprising someone with a pet as a gift rarely ends well.
Gift Pets to Immediate Family Only: WebMD recommends gifting pets to your immediate family only – your spouse or your children. Even so, you should never surprise your family with a pet. Pets are a serious responsibility. You need to make a decision as a family about whether or not you should get a pet. Not only are pets a financial responsibility, but they require your time, love, and energy. You must decide if you can give a pet the life he or she deserves before adopting one.
If you do decide to give a pet as a gift to someone in your extended family or to a friend, make sure everyone in their household is in agreement with getting a pet. So, if your nephew wants a kitten, don’t just offer to pay for the kitten’s adoption fee. Talk with his parents about it first to ensure they are on board with getting a new kitten.
Don’t Impulse Buy: Don’t buy or adopt a pet on impulse. Sure, that dog giving you the big sad puppy eyes is adorable sitting in his kennel at the animal shelter, but the recipient of the gift needs to be the one who chooses his or her pet. The gift recipient may not want a puppy; she might want an adult dog instead. The recipient might have her heart set on a small dog and may not be happy if you bring her a larger dog as a gift. Resist the temptation to choose a pet for the recipient and allow her to choose one herself.
A Note About Gifting Pets to Children: Pets can help teach children how to be responsible, but remember that children are just that – children. They are going to forget to feed the kitten or to scoop his litter box. They are going to whine about taking the puppy outside to potty when it’s cold.
If you are gifting your children a pet for the holidays, know that the ultimate responsibility for the pet’s care falls on you as the adult. Don’t gift your kids a pet if you are not willing to assume the responsibility for him. Likewise, ensure that the parents of a child gift recipient will accept responsibility for a pet before you gift one.
How to Give a Pet as a Gift
Once you are absolutely certain your gift recipient wants a pet, there are some fun ways you can gift a pet during the holidays.
Purchase an Adoption Certificate: Most animal shelters and rescues will allow you to purchase an adoption certificate to gift your loved one. Your loved one can take the certificate to the shelter or rescue when he or she is ready to choose a new pet. This option gives the recipient a lot of flexibility. The gift recipient can go choose his or her new pet when the time is right for him or her. The recipient can wait to use the adoption certificate until after he or she is done traveling for the holidays, for instance.
Gift the Supplies: If you’re giving a pet as a gift, you can wrap up all the supplies the new pet will need to put under the Christmas tree. Wrap up a bed, toys, a collar, leash, food and water bowls, training equipment (for dogs), food, treats, pet carrier, and litter and a litter box (for cats). You can also wrap up a book or two about dogs or cats you think might be beneficial to the gift recipient.
When my sister got her oldest son, Liam, a pet bird for his birthday, she bought the bird supplies for Liam to unwrap on his birthday. Liam was so excited to learn he was getting the pet bird he wanted. It was adorable to see his excitement! A day or two later, my sister took Liam to the pet store so that he could choose which bird he wanted.
Gift a Stuffed Animal: A kitten or puppy with a ribbon around his neck under the tree would be adorable, but as I mentioned, it’s important to allow the gift recipient to choose his or her new pet. Instead, you could place a stuffed dog or cat under the tree to represent the puppy or kitten you’re gifting your recipient.
What to Do If You Receive a Pet and Don’t Want One
I truly hope you never find yourself in this situation because it would be a stinky one all the way around. However, if you find yourself as the recipient of a pet you don’t want, there are a couple of things you should do.
First, thank the gift giver. Remember that the giver had good intentions. Be gracious, even if the last thing you want is a pet.
Second, politely decline the gift. This may be difficult, but if you don’t have the desire, time, financial means, and/or energy to care for a pet, it isn’t fair to accept the pet into your family. Be honest and kind. Let the giver know that while you appreciate their thoughtfulness, you just don’t have the desire, time, or energy for a pet right now.
If the pet was adopted at a shelter, the giver should be able to return him or her. Sometimes you run the risk of the pet being euthanized when being returned though if there’s a lack of space available.
If you feel so inclined, you could offer to help the giver find the pet a good home. This way, the pet will hopefully find himself or herself in a good home and avoid the risk of unnecessary euthanasia due to lack of space in the shelter.
Have you ever given or received a pet as a gift? What was your experience like?
Sierra M. Koester has been writing in the pet space since 2006. She runs the blog Fur Everywhere. She joined the awesome team at The Cat Blogosphere as Content Manager in June, 2022. She is currently working on editing her upcoming anthology, Purrseverance, a collection of stories about cats who have overcome challenges in their lives from their perspective. Sierra’s home is ruled by her two special needs cats, Carmine and Tylan, who are the center of Sierra’s world.