Things to consider before giving pets as Christmas gifts

The blissful image of a young child or a significant other receiving a pet as a holiday gift compels many shoppers to give pets as gifts come Christmas time.

The blissful image of a young child or a significant other receiving a pet as a holiday gift compels many shoppers to give pets as gifts come Christmas time.

But pets are unlike any other holiday gift, as pets are living things that require food, shelter and attention.

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Because pets are unlike video games, diamond pendants and other popular holiday gifts, shoppers must consider a host of factors before deciding whether or not to give pets as gifts this holiday season.

Living situation
Shoppers who plan to give a pet to someone they don’t live with, whether that person is a niece or nephew or a girlfriend or boyfriend, should first consider and/or confirm the recipients’ living situation. Landlords may forbid apartment dwellers from having pets, so it’s best to confirm with your loved one whether his or her lease allows pets before adopting or buying the animal. If you don’t want to spoil the surprise or you cannot confirm if a loved one’s living situation is pet-friendly, don’t adopt the animal.

Some people, including many who profess to love pets, cannot have pets of their own because of allergies. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, as many as three in 10 people have pet allergies. Cat allergies are twice as common as dog allergies, but gift givers who intend to give their loved ones a dog should still confirm if the recipient has a dog allergy before adopting or purchasing the animal. The AAFA also warns against looking for pets that are described as “hypoallergenic.” While some people are more sensitive to certain breeds of cats and dogs than others, there is no guarantee that a particular breed of cat or dog will not cause an allergic reaction.

There are good times to give pets as gifts, while other times can be tough. Pets need time and routine to acclimate to their new environments, so avoid giving a new pet to a family about to embark on a lengthy holiday vacation. Families staying home for the holidays and taking time off from school or work may be most capable of welcoming a furry new addition into their homes. If you want to give a loved one a pet for the holidays, delay giving the gift until things have returned to post-holiday normalcy.

Pets can be expensive, especially in the first year. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the first-year cost of owning a dog is nearly $1,300, while the first-year cost of cat ownership exceeds $1,000. These estimates include the cost of food, shelter and medical exams, among other things. Before giving a pet to a child, consult the child’s parents to determine if the family can afford adding a pet to the family. If parents need some financial help to afford the pet, include supplies like bowls, leashes and toys in your holiday gift. 

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