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Buy a Pet for the Holidays? Think Again.

November 27, 2009 3 comments

So you might be thinking that giving a pet for Christmas would be a good idea. I mean who wouldn’t love a pet for the holidays? Right?

Before you jump on that idea and head on over to the local animal shelter, think again. Many pets bought as gifts for Christmas end up at your local shelter. Why? The reasons are many, but here 5 reasons why you should not get a pet as a gift during the holidays:

1. A pet is not what the person wanted. Owning a pet can be a pretty big commitment. Pets require lots of time, money, care, and in some cases, training. The recipient of your “gift” may not want that kind of responsibility. Even though Grandma is living all alone and could benefit from having a companion, it may not be what she wants or needs right now.

2. The pet you adopted/purchased for them is coming at one of the most hectic times of the year. Holiday movies often depict (accurately in most cases) the chaos that occurs during the busy holiday season. There’s the family to deal with, gifts to buy, travel plans to make and the multitude of other other things that we must do and take care of during this busy time. All of this “business” creates chaos and all of the emotions that come with it. Bringing a new pet into a household during this time can be stressful – not only for the pet but also for the new owner.

3. The person receiving the gift may be allergic to the pet. As a volunteer at the local animal shelter, I have seen many pets surrendered or returned because the person who adopted them discovered he or she had an allergy to the particular pet they adopted. I only discovered this myself after I had adopted my two cats. It turns out that I was highly allergic to them – who knew? Luckily, I was able to take precautions (and medication) to prevent me from having to give them up. But, not everyone is so lucky. Nor, is everyone inclined to start weekly allergy shots just to keep their new pet. It would be better if the person had a chance to be exposed to someone else’s pet first to see if they have any reaction. Or, that they can go with you to select the pet they want since they know best if they are allergic to a particular pet.

4. The pet you adopted/purchased for them is not the one they wanted. It’s true, not every breed or type of pet is right for everyone. Perhaps the lizard you bought for your son is not the exact kind he wanted. Or, the breed of dog you chose may not be one that is suitable for an older person or for a child. The beauty of waiting until the gift recipient can go with you to adopt that pet is that he or she can actually be the one who decides which pet is right for them. Buying a sweater that fits can be difficult when you are buying it for someone else. How much better is it when they can try it on? It’s is the same with pets. Owners need to meet the pet first to know if he or she will be a good fit for them and their lifestyle.

5. The person you adopted/purchased the pet for is unable to care for the pet. In these hard economic times many people are dealing with financial issues of some sort. You may not know everything there is to know about the person and their financial status. Perhaps he or she is about to lose their home, or perhaps they just lost their job. Buying a pet as a gift may be one of the worst things you could do right now. Financial trouble is stressful. Adding a pet into the mix could increase that stress and would likely mean the pet would be returned to the shelter – which is stressful for the pet too.

All of us want to find that “perfect” gift for the person we love. Pets can often seem like the perfect choice (especially if the person has mentioned one before), but they also come with a lot of responsibilities.

So, before you shop for that perfect pet to give as a gift, here are 5 gift alternatives…

1. Purchase a gift certificate at your local animal shelter that can go towards the adoption of a pet when the time is right. Even if the gift recipient doesn’t get a pet right away, they can still go look and see what they might be interested in and then adopt a pet when the time is right.

2. Create your own gift certificate that says you will go with the person to adopt the pet at their convenience. This makes the most sense and is best for everyone involved – pet and owner.

3. Donate money to your local animal shelter in the name of the person you are buying the gift for – the money will be much appreciated by the shelter and the person will be touched that you were so thoughtful in your gift choice.

4. Buy the person a book about the animal you think they may be interested in getting in the future (like a book about dog breeds). That way they can learn more about the animal they want before adopting it.

5. Buy the person a stuffed animal with the promise of adopting an animal after the holidays. This allows you to show your love but also gives you and the person time to prepare for the pet before actually adopting it.

My wish for this year is that every animal finds the right home with the right owner. What a beautiful story that would make if no animals were returned to the shelter after the holidays this year. Won’t you help make my wish come true?

Going on vacation: What to do with your pet?

February 3, 2009 6 comments

If you’re like me, you don’t trust your pet with just anyone.
When I used to travel for business (which was quite often), the one thing that worried me most was finding someone who could care for my cats. Cats can be quite self-sufficient, but they still require daily care – and in my case, a daily insulin injection for diabetes.

At the time I had never even heard of a pet sitter, so I had to rely on friends or family to care for my cats, and to give Sebastiaan his daily insulin injection. As you can imagine this became quite an ordeal. I mean who wants to bug your friends to care for your pets while you are out of town all of the time? They have busy lives themselves and don’t want to be a constant caretaker for someone else’s pets – even if it is for you, their friend.

And, you can only use family for so long before they get tired of it too. Luckily, I had a very understanding sister who loved my cats as much I did, so she was often willing to come over and stay with them or stop in to feed them and give Sebastian his insulin. Not everyone is so lucky.
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