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Christmas is a marvelous time of year. The season brings out the best in people. Heartfelt greetings are exchanged as well as gifts.
A common gift during the holidays is a pet. People understand the joy and companionship of a trusted pet and want to share that experience with friends and family members and because of our connection with our own pets, it is not uncommon for a puppy or kitten to be presented as a surprise on Christmas morning.
If you are considering giving such a magnanimous present, there are several issues that must first be addressed.
First, consider the recipient. Is it for a child, your child or someone else’s? Children and pets go together like peanut butter and jelly. If it is your child, be sure the child is ready for the responsibilities of a pet and be prepared to assume these if the child ultimately does not uphold his/her end of an agreement. If the new owner is not your child, the child’s parents must be in total agreement.
Remember the excitement and newness wears off quickly and someone must care for that dog/cat for the pet’s lifetime which can be 10-17 years or longer.
The breed, age, gender, etc. must be cleared with the adults in the household, in that they will ultimately be the caregivers.
Is the gift of a pet for an adult? Perhaps it would be for an elderly parent who recently lost a pet or spouse. If so, make sure that person wants a pet. Although they may miss the companionship of a prior pet, they may not be ready to give their heart to a new one. Some people like the freedom of not being responsible for another life.
Second, consider the ensuing cost of a new pet. In addition to the purchase price, there is the cost of food, preventative care such as vaccinations, heartworm tests and prevention and flea/tick products. That doesn’t include any medical care for ill pets and required license and registration fees. Then there is equipment, including but not limited to leads, collars, crates, bowls, and of course, pet toys.
The recipient of your gift will be looking at a substantial investment of time, money and energy to maintain his/her new pet.
Third, consider what type of pet would be appropriate. You may be a dog person, always had dogs, can’t imagine life without a dog, but your friend may not share your passion. He or she may be a cat person. Respect a person’s individual desires and needs.
Breed also is important. Although there is not as much variation in cats, there is purebred versus domestic cat (long, short or medium haired). Also, consider color. Some people love black cats while others would never own one.
When talking canines: purebred vs mixed, male vs female, pup vs adult, small, medium or large, are all decisions to be made. Just because someone has admired an Old English Sheepdog, does not necessarily mean they want to assume the responsibility of the hours of grooming required weekly.
Temperaments can vary from breed to breed. Remember, a dog’s temperament is hereditary. Some breeds are more excitable and active, while others typically are more docile and laid back.
Finally, consider timing. Let’s say you have carefully weighed all the above and a living, loving pet is the gift you plan to give, the worst day to present your package is on Christmas.
Christmas is a time of celebration, but it is also a time of hurried families going from place to place for gift giving and meals. A time when children are out of routine, and perhaps more rowdy.
Special decorations are up, some of which can be very dangerous to a new pup or kitten. Remember, these are babies and they need a routine and a safe environment.
A new pet should enter a household after the holidays, when the decorations are safely packed away and calm and routine life has been re-established. You can give a photo or equipment with a promise of a gift of love to follow.
If you need to present a living gift during the holiday season, doing so before Christmas would be better, allowing the pup/kitten to have some time to adjust to new surroundings before the festivities begin.
Wishing all a warm and loving holiday with a New Year filled with wags and purrs.
Dr. Nancy Schenck, D.V.M., of Four Loving Paws Veterinary Services, Inc., can be reached at 812-448-1415. If you have a question or pet-related topic for Dr. Schenck to discuss in an upcoming article, email it to firstname.lastname@example.org.