Pets as Gifts? Think before you give!

Ahh, the holidays are upon us.  Time for celebrating, visiting family and friends, and gift giving.  At Pet Camp we know that a pet may not be the best gift (a left handed, senior hockey stick with a PM9 curve and a 77 flex might just be the best gift); a pet is for life and it’s a huge commitment in time and money. But many people treat pets as just another gift. Well just in time for the holidays, the folks at Veterinary Team Brief have come up with a list of key factors for veterinarians to discuss with potential pet parents before they embark on the pets as gifts bandwagon (or sled pulled by reindeer if that’s more to your predilection).

  1. The Pet’s Age
    Younger pets (read puppy and kittens here) require a lot of dedication and patience.  Dealing with a young pet can be a lot of work (training and cleaning) and of course includes the risk of some damage to your house from chewing and scratching.  On the other hand, older pets will often have some training but usually you don’t know about their history and any medical or behavior issues they may have.
  1. The Human’s Age
    In our house both ends of the age spectrum have their own pets — but that’s not always such a good idea.  Both the young and old have limitations that need to be thought about.  Those that are too young may not be responsible enough to care for a pet and those that are too old may have physical limitations.  While there is probably no bright line rule, it is something that needs to be discussed.
  1. Lifestyle
    Remember those days as a swinging single — well they are gone once you get a pet.  Lots of pets require daily attention and often daily exercise, fitting this into the life style of even the best intentioned pet parent can be difficult.  On the other hand, hanging out in the dog park is a low-key way to meet fabulous folks.
  1. Lifespan
    While the folks at VeterinaryTeamBrief focus on the lifespan of the pet (which according to them is between 8 and 16 years for the average dog and 13 to 17 years for an average indoor cat) you also need to think about the human lifespan!  Getting a pet for a child means that the pet will be there after the child potentially is off to college and getting a pet for an elderly person means that the person may pass before the pet.  In both instances someone else now needs to care for the pet!
  1. Living Space
    Sure Mark and Virginia share their San Francisco house with 4 kids and 3 dogs — but not every one is ready for that kind of urban lifestyle.  Pets need space — for themselves and for their stuff.   Also, make sure that there are no restrictions on the type of pets, size, and breed etc. where ever the potential pet parent lives.
  1. Other Pets
    A new pet needs to get along with everyone on the family — both human and non-human. This is something that’s unfortunately rarely considered when pets are given as gifts.
  1. Money!
    Come on, we all know it — pets can be expensive.  While we certainly think they are worth it, the potential pet parent needs to understand the costs involved with having a pet.
  1. Time
    The holidays are a weird time of year.  On one hand they can be very hectic and you can feel like you’ve got no time or you’ve committed to visit Aunt Betty for the holidays — if that’s the person you’re thinking might need a pet, why not wait until Spring?  On the other hand, lots of folks are off from work for a week or so and this might be a good time to spend some time at home with a new pet (provided everything else about being a new pet parent works out).

So before you get pets as gifts for that unsuspecting potential pet parent, have an open and honest discussion (at least with yourself and hopefully with them) about all that is involved in adding a pet to your life.  If after that discussion a pet is still the right choice, not just as a gift but as a life changing addition to the pet parent’s family, please pass on our congratulations to the new pet parent.

Happy holidays to all the pets and pet parents!

Thanks for reading!