Pets are our best friends and heroes – they are the epitome of the gift that keeps on giving. During the pandemic, with people facing feelings of desperate isolation and loneliness, pets have become life-affirming companions. And now that the heart of the holiday season – a time for giving and providing thanks – is upon us, pets are literally being given as gifts. While at first blush that cuddly kitten or happy hound seems like the perfect present, we urge you to paws and think through this process very carefully before gifting an animal.
Sadly, cats and dogs who are given as presents are much more likely to end up in a shelter. We at American Humane want all animals to find their perfect forever homes, but we understand pets come with huge financial and emotional responsibilities. It is important to be fully aware of those responsibilities and committed to them before a new furry friend is brought home.
Adopting a pet is a big, life-changing step. And for those who are not part of the decision-making process, the pit falls are deep. For instance, the recipient of this unexpected bundle of wags and purrs might not have the necessary time, energy or money to devote to the pet, they might not have wanted that specific kind of pet, the pet might not be age-appropriate, or the new pet parent might lack the necessary attention span or emotional commitment to provide proper care. All these factors increase the risk that an animal given as a gift will end up abandoned and alone at a shelter within two years.
Like children, pets are completely dependent on their owners for all their needs — food, water, medical attention, exercise, shelter and, most importantly, companionship. With good care, most dogs can live 12 to 15 years and most cats can live 15 to 20 years. The choice of whether to commit to this time needs to be made by the primary caretaker, and them alone.
If you know someone who wants a pet in their life, encourage them to do their research and determine whether their lifestyle and personality would make them a better dog owner or cat owner. They can then make the ultimate decision and find the pet that best fits into their life, benefitting both the pet and the owner. Animals deserve our utmost respect, and while they are gifts to our lives, they may not make the best gift to give this holiday season.