You have likely seen it glorified in the movies- a sweet little girl comes running down to the Christmas tree. Lo and behold, a brand new puppy is sitting there with a big red bow around his neck, just waiting to be loved. The little is super excited. She runs and hugs her new puppy, who gives her a big kiss. The two grow up together and become best friends forever.
Wouldn’t it be great if life always worked out this way? But unfortunately this isn’t always the case. Here is what really can happen when you give a pet as a gift. The little girl or boy is too young to know what it means to have to care for a pet. Or, the child plays with the puppy, gets bitten and cries in horror. Then, mom and dad get frustrated and drop off the dog at the local animal shelter, where the dog has a lot of company. Three to five million other dogs and cats are returned to shelters every year.
Are You Really Ready for a Pet?
Before you decide to give a pet as a gift this holiday season, take the following aspects into consideration.
- How old are your children? Is your 4-year old begging for a cat? He or she is too young to take on the responsibility. For younger kids, consider getting a pet that is more low maintenance, such as a guinea pig. Guinea pigs are easy to care for, like to be held, and they rarely bite.
- Does your child really want a pet to take care of? Perhaps Grandma has a poodle they are fond of, but this doesn’t mean they are ready to share their time and living space with an animal.
- Have you considered the cost? Many people fail to anticipate how much money it is going to cost to care for a pet. Whether you choose a dog or cat, you are likely to spend $400 to $500 a year on them.
- Are you ready for the commitment? You can’t try on the dog for size, decide you don’t like it and then take your dog back to the store. Many dogs and cats live 15 years or more. When you bring home a pet, you are making a commitment.
- Are you ready for the unexpected? Caring for pets often involves cleaning up poop and vomit. Bad behaviors require training. There is likely to be bumps in the road.
Thought about all these things and it is still a go? Here are some thoughts on getting started.
Adding a New Member to Your Family
Before you head out to pick up your new pet, allow your family to become involved in the decision. Talk about what type, size and breed of pet that you would consider. It’s not a bad idea to do some research and read up on the characteristics of the breed you are considering.
Now that you know what to look for, where should you find your pet? The answer should be, an animal shelter. When you adopt a pet at a shelter, you are giving a pet that is homeless a new lease on life. In addition to this reason, it is relatively inexpensive to adopt from a shelter. In some cases, they offer discounts on spaying and neutering.
Another option is to search for a pet on the Internet. Petfinder.com allows you to search from over 4000 different shelters for the right pet. You can search by breed, location and size. Try getting the whole family involved in the search. Although it is fun to surprise a child, it can be as much fun to have the child involved in the selection process.