Lexi Photo by Teri Nehrenz

Giving a cute cuddly puppy dog or a sweet purring kitten to someone for Christmas might seem like a great idea and it often is, but not as a surprise gift. Choosing a new family member should be a family decision or at the very least the decision of the person receiving the pet.

Choosing to adopt a pet is a commitment that will span 10-20 years or more and careful consideration must be given when choosing the type of pet you pair people with.  You wouldn’t want to give your 75 year old grandmother  or your toddler a 100+ pound Rottweiler that isn’t well behaved or even a seemingly easy to care for animal like a parakeet or parrot that can live up to 20-50 years and most likely outlive your grandmother or the child will outgrow.

Please make sure the pet recipient has ample time, money, space and the desire to commit to caring for any animal. People who are rarely home or work long hours should probably not have an active pet that requires a lot of attention, exercise or special care. Someone on a fixed income may not be able to afford regular vet care, vaccines or licensing costs. Be sure to check with any apartment management companies to ensure that you are aware of any pet policies regarding size, breeds or extra deposit/pet rents that may have to be paid on top of caring for the pet. Be sure the pets have ample space for exercise; you may not want to confine a very large or active dog to an apartment or gift them to someone who isn’t able to regularly walk the dog.

If you do surprise your children with a pet this Christmas, be prepared to care for and train the pet yourself as children may lose interest in the pet very quickly.

You may be out shopping for Christmas and see someone giving away or selling a cute puppy or kitten; please resist.  Acting on impulse doesn’t give you or the recipient the chance to select a pet by size, activity level, and temperament; all important factors when choosing a pet.

The bottom line is that pets, when chosen with careful consideration, can make wonderful pets to give as gifts if you follow the basic guidelines mentioned above.

No one wants to give an unwanted gift, especially a vulnerable one that lives and breathes. According to Emily Post, “A surprise may feel more festive, but in the long run everyone, whether they have two legs or four, will be happier if you ask up front.”

Last but not least, when thinking about a pet, please consider adopting. Many wonderful animals end up in shelters every day. All shelter pets are vet checked, spayed/neutered and vaccinated prior to adoption; adoption fees are less than the cost of those services themselves. If you do decide to purchase a dog or cat from a pet store or breeder, check to make sure they are reputable pet providers.