For years, animal welfare organizations wagged a finger at the idea of giving pets as gifts. They warned that most of these puppies and kittens would be surrendered to shelters and left homeless because of impulsive gift-giving whims.
But recent research shows otherwise. In a survey of people who received pet gifts, 86 percent of those pets were still in the home, according to a survey by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). The gift didn’t have to be a surprise — people who knew about the gift in advance became every bit as attached to the pet. Even more remarkable, other studies showed that pets given as gifts were less likely to be relinquished than those acquired by the pet owners themselves.
That said, don’t forget that giving a pet is essentially giving someone a lifelong family member, with lifelong responsibilities. It’s not something that’s easy to return, like an ugly sweater. Here are some tips to help you make the best decisions for the person on your gift list and for the pet.
Don’t assume anything. Just because someone used to have a pet doesn’t mean they want one now. Perhaps they’re still mourning their last pet and just aren’t ready yet. They may have extended travel plans. Or they may be planning on moving to an apartment or condo that isn’t pet friendly. And even though that mastiff puppy is adorable, don’t assume your grandma can handle it once it grows up.
Nix the surprise. Have an honest discussion with your friend or family member and tell them about your potential gift. Make sure they truly want a pet at this point in their lives and they have the financial means to care for it, including the budget for food, supplies and veterinary care it will need. If you’re considering a pet gift for a child, it’s especially important to clear this with the parents, since they will likely shoulder much of the responsibility for the pet.
Consider your friend or family member’s lifestyle: do they have time to spend with the pet, or are they away at work for most of the day? And make sure no one in the house is allergic to pet dander.
Consider a gift certificate for a respected rescue or shelter. That way, the person can pick out their own dog or cat. Pets from rescues and shelters have typically received a medical exam along with any needed treatment and vaccines. They’re also usually spayed and neutered, which can reduce initial expenses for the new owner. Many rescue organizations foster new pets temporarily, so they can provide guidance on whether pets are good with kids, are amenable to living with other pets, or need patience and help with any issues.
A voucher for a reputable breeder is another option. If there’s a particular breed of dog or cat the person on your list prefers, work with them to find a good breeder. Reputable breeders go to great lengths to make sure their pets are healthy, free from genetic disorders and well socialized. They will also welcome you to tour their facility, so you can see for yourself that all animals receive proper care. That gives you the peace of mind that you’re not supporting a puppy mill.
A pet supply basket can be a welcome gift. If you still want your gift to be a surprise, and you’re confident your friend or family member wants a pet, consider giving pet supplies instead. For people thinking of adding pups, giving supplies such as a pet bed, collar, leash, food dishes, toys, treats and grooming supplies can help allay some of the initial expenses that go with a new pet. For cats, consider any of those supplies as well as a litter box and scooper, a cat tree or a scratching post.
With any luck, your gift can help bring years of furry companionship. And what could be a better present than that?
The information in this blog has been developed with our veterinarian and is designed to help educate pet parents. If you have questions or concerns about your pet's health or nutrition, please talk with your veterinarian.