Opening your home to an animal in need is one of the greatest gifts – but should it be done as a present for a loved one? Here are a few things to consider when trying to navigate the ‘pets as presents debate’.

Is the recipient ready for a pet?

Before you decide to give the gift of a pet, read the following checklist summarized from the ASPCA’s website.


1. Pets as presents: A good idea for children?

  • Age is an important consideration. Unless the child is at least age 10, most are not ready for the responsibility of a dog or cat.
  • Shelf pets like guinea pigs or fish make a better choice for children younger than age 10.
  • Younger children often beg for a pet, and parents give in to their pleas incorrectly, thinking that owning a larger pet will teach them responsibility. You can use a pet to reward a responsible child, but it does not work very well the other way around.
  • Until your child is old enough to remember to feed a pet, walk a dog or clean a litter box, he or she is not ready to assume the responsibility of a larger pet like a dog or cat.


2. Consider the costs.

  • Are pets as presents a good idea when it comes to costs? The $500 you paid for the purebred Ragdoll kitten (or the adoption fee at your local shelter) may pale in comparison to the $350 to $400 per year that is the average cost of cat ownership. Small- or medium-sized dogs can cost up to $500 per year and even more for larger breeds.


3. Evaluate the commitment level of the recipient.

  • It would not be a good idea to buy a large dog that requires lots of exercise for your workaholic brother. Living creatures are not like a new pair of shoes that can be returned if they do not fit properly. The commitment level of every potential pet owner should be evaluated prior to an adoption.
  • If the pet is a present for a teenager, and the animal lives a long life, will the parents assume responsibility for the pet when the kids leave home? Cats can live to be over 20 years old. As pets age, veterinary visits increase as does the need for expensive medications.
  • Will the new pet owner be able to go the distance with dog poop cleanup and regular litter box maintenance? Can he or she overlook bathroom mishaps inside the home and other typical behavioral issues that arise? Pet ownership is a rocky road, and whoever is presented with the pet should be prepared for the long haul.


How To Make Pets As Presents a Success

For some, giving the gift of pet ownership is a rewarding and positive experience. Here are a few tips to make this process smoother.

If you think your friend or family member is suited to long-term pet ownership, make them part of the process! Make a trip to the local animal shelter and make the adoption a special event that you share together. Their input in this process can help ensure it is the right fit.

For older children, make the process an educational experience by researching dog or cat breeds together. Go shopping together for all the items needed before bringing the pet home, this will give you both a sense of the costs and responsibilities of pet ownership.

Welcoming a new pet to your family, for humans and animals, is one of the greatest gifts. Giving a pet as a present is not without its challenges, and is not suited to everyone. Keep in mind these guidelines when deciding whether this is the right choice for your family member or friend.

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