This time of year, pet stores, breeders and animal shelters are being bombarded with people who want to get a pet for themselves or as a gift for someone else. If this is you, have you really thought everything through before taking on this major commitment?
Before you give or get a pet as a gift, be sure that the person that you are getting it for really wants one and is willing to take on the responsibility. If you are getting it for a child, be sure that he or she is old enough and mature enough to care for a living, breathing creature.
I can't tell you how many pets are abandoned at animal hospitals or turned into shelters after all the excitement of the holiday season is over and the new owners get over their cuteness and cuddliness. They realize that this gift is not self-sufficient and cannot be put on a shelf or in a closet, and that it needs food, water, to be walked or have its litterbox cleaned and it also requires time, attention and money.
It may not be that the person may not want to properly take care of their pet, but they may have a hectic work schedule, they travel for work or they like to have the freedom to go out of town on a whim. Some parents say that they bought the pet for their teenager who is involved in lots of extra-curricular activities after school, and because they are not around to take care of the pet, they have to now take on the task of caring for a four-legged child when they already have two-legged ones who require a lot.
Sometimes a guy will think his girlfriend wants a pet because she was gushing at the puppy in the window of the pet store, but it turns out she likes looking at puppies from afar and doesn't really want one of her own. It could be that someone you know recently lost their pet and you think that getting them another one will help them during their grief process. Prior to purchasing or adopting a pet for them, please make sure this person is emotionally ready to become a pet owner again.
It's hard to resist seeing that adorable little fuzzball in the pet store or shelter and not want to take it home. I always say that owning a pet is a choice, a huge obligation and financial expense. If you are not absolutely sure this is something you or the person you are buying it for is willing to take on, it's best to wait until you are before deciding to make such a major purchase. Let your child pet-sit for a family friend or relative first and then once they have proven that they are ready for a big responsibility such as this, then you can consider getting one for them.
Most of us who own pets love them dearly and would be ecstatic if we got one for a holiday gift. Unfortunately, everyone is not like us, so if you decide to give a kitten, puppy or adult cat or dog as a gift, be certain that it is the right time in that person's life, because if it's not, the pet will be the one that suffers the most. On the other hand, if the time is right, a pet can be the gift that will continue to bring joy and happiness long after the season is over.
About this column: Tips and advice to help care for your pets from a professional veterinarian.