Oooh! Aaah! This is what any parent wants to hear from their children during the holidays.
A new puppy or kitten will elicit this response; therefore, a pet may be at the top of the ultimate holiday gift list. Think again, or you may regret your choice.

Carefully consider these questions in determining if giving a living, breathing animal is the surprise you are intending to give as the ultimate gift.

  • Do your children really want a pet, or is it your whim to have the “best” gift?
  • Are you committed to take the responsibility of this gift for what may be many years?
  • Can you afford it financially as well as the time needed to care for your pet?

If you have never had a pet before, the thought process takes even more research than if you have had previous experience.

The holiday season is often the worst time to bring a new pet home, for both you and the pet. Holidays have more stress and activity than any other time of the year, and animals coming into a new home need just the opposite. They need quiet, calm, lots of attention and a set routine. A new pet is going to be confused and frightened even in the best of situations, and the chaos of the holidays can be difficult.

If your child is old enough to take on some of the responsibility of taking care of a new puppy or kitten, then he or she should definitely be involved in the selection process. Surprise gifts, however well intentioned, are sometimes not a good fit and need to be returned.

If this is a pet that has been adopted, the pet could become even more confused and may not be able to be placed in a permanent home later. It is fun to surprise, but in the end it is likely to be a lot more fun for the entire family if everyone is involved in the process. When you do it right, your family will likely end up with a lifelong friend and companion.

I recommend that you give your child a gift certificate, a leash, and a stuffed toy resembling your idea. When she receives your gift, tell her that after the holidays you will take her on a special trip to pick up her new pet. When life gets back to normal, go to the shelter and/or pet shop. With this approach, your family can devote the full amount of time that a new pet deserves.