by Tasha Phillips, M.S.
Thanksgiving is gone and Christmas is knocking on the door. I’m sure most of you already have your presents lined up under the tree, but, if you’re like me, there are still last-minute gifts to consider.
In the last post, we talked about what foods you can and can’t share with your fuzzy friends. Today, we’re changing gears and diving into gift-giving and why pets generally should not be considered gifts.
Pets are one of the most amazing additions to anyone’s life, and it’s easy to fall into the temptation of gifting a cute bundle of woofs or meows to someone special this year. Many parents especially feel pressured to gift new puppies and kittens as the holidays roll in.
Before we jump in the deep end, let’s cover a few important points to consider before bringing home your next best friend.
A 12-year commitment
As we all know, a new pet is a huge commitment to take on, especially for a family. Many breeds of dogs and cats have a life expectancy of around 10-12 years and sometimes even more.
Many people fall into the trap of excitement without considering the day-to-day commitment -let alone the long-term responsibility of being a pet owner. Shelters and humane societies always see an influx of pet abandonment and surrender in the weeks and months following major holidays.
This is typically because bringing home a new pet is exciting and fun! But, in the days and weeks following this excitement, the “adopters' remorse” begins to set in as we realize this is a lot more work than anticipated. Make sure any potential new owners are in it for the long haul.
The Financial Responsibility
A new pet can be a big expense in the beginning. Owners typically need a crate or carrier, food, bed, toys, and other accessories.
Another significant and vital financial responsibility is getting proper care for a new pet. This includes (most importantly) vaccine series, yearly flea and heartworm prevention, and spay/neuter costs.
Aside from the “upfront” costs of a new pet, you must consider the potential for new issues to arise throughout their life. This includes things like urinary tract infections, diabetes, or an emergency surgery.
Many people who are gifted with a pet do not have proper planning or the monetary savings to take on unexpected veterinary costs that are crucial for good health of their new pet. These costs can be anywhere from $2000 - $5000, depending on where you live.
Long term health conditions in animals can be a significant financial burden for families. Could the person you are gifting a pet reasonably care for them if something were to arise? Or could they reasonably seek treatment for their pet in the event of an emergency?
Over the years, I’ve found that many people want to give the gift of a new dog or cat after someone’s pet has recently passed away. Although this is a sweet and kind-hearted gesture, you must be certain that the recipient is ready for a new family member.
Many chose to wait months or even years before accepting a new pet into their heart and home. The bonds we form with our pets are nearly indescribable.
I often say, “This is the only true love you’ll ever know.” This is because pet’s have one goal: Show Mom/Dad that I love them. This unconditional love is unwavering and all-forgiving. Name another place you can get that.
Accepting a new pet can sometimes feel like a betrayal of that love, and owners often fear they are “replacing” their past pet. Make sure your friend or family member is ready for a new addition before you venture down that road.
Christmas Wrap Up
If you’ve made it this far and are still ready to give the gift of a new pet, here are some great tips:
Know without a doubt that they do in fact want this pet. Many people can be particular about species, breed, sex, size, etc. Make sure you get the right companion.
Before you pick up the new pet, go a step further to make the transition easier. Here’s a short list of things to pick up for them or make sure they have:
b) Food and water bowls
c) Litter box and litter
e) Training treats
f) Collar and Leash
Make sure that they are clear on what vaccinations/veterinary care the pet has had recently and what they need next. We often see new pets that have missed scheduled vaccinations because the information was lost in transition. You can avoid this by filling out a vaccine pamphlet.
If you are adopting/gifting a pet into a low-income family, make sure they have resources for their new pet. Check out The National Humane Society for National and State Specific financial resources for pets at https://www.humanesociety.org/resources/are-you-having-trouble-affording-your-pet.
Lastly, talk to other friends and family about pitching in a little cash. This can be used for veterinary care, a (VERY important) new emergency fund for the pet, or even a pet insurance policy. Some companies that offer pet insurance include Embrace, Pets Best, Lemonade, American Kennel Club (AKC), ASPCA, Nationwide, and Progressive. A gift like that can go a long way to ensuring the best life possible with their new owner.
Stay safe and have a very Merry Christmas!!
Tasha Nelson Phillips is a veterinary assistant and researcher. She began her work in veterinary medicine in 2014 at a small practice in East Tennessee. She has a B.S. in Biology as well as a Master’s degree in Microbiology from East Tennessee State University. Her undergraduate and graduate research focused on Lavengel®, exploring its efficacy and mechanism of action against common bacterial species.
Tasha’s interests focus on natural antimicrobial options and exploring novel compounds to combat antibiotic resistance. She continues to work in small animal emergency and critical care medicine. She spends her free time with her husband and three furry babies in their East Tennessee home.