With Christmas on the horizon, hopefully you’re well on the way with plans, festive decorations, presents and food. However, there’s one present that, although it might seem like a lovely idea, is rarely suitable – a pet.
Sadly, we’ve allowed ourselves to forget that a dog, cat, rabbit, hamster or rat isn’t a toy, or a consumer durable, or (worst of all) a disposable item. In reality, he or she is a living, breathing, thinking and feeling being. So is it reasonable to give a pet away as a gift? We don’t think so, and in this blog, we’re going to look at why.
How do you wrap them?
OK, this isn’t entirely serious! But there is a serious point behind it – is the recipient actually expecting a pet as a present? Because if not, how on earth are they going to have everything prepared and planned for one? A nice surprise, fine – for about five minutes until the kitten needs a litter tray, or the puppy needs a collar and lead, or the rabbit needs some hay…
Does the recipient REALLY want it?
Yes, of course, lots of people say they want a pet – but how real is that desire? And will it last the course – the cute little puppy might be expected to live 12 or 15 years, the kitten 16 or even 20. Even the “cheap bunny” might well approach a decade in the house! It’s a lifetime responsibility, not something to be done on impulse.
Sadly, though, it’s not even that long in all too many situations – some charities suggest that the majority of pets given as presents are either put to sleep or sent for rehoming within a year. This is usually for one of two reasons – they grew up “different to what we expected” (in other words, the cute baby puppy became a teenager!) or people simply lost interest. This is always a problem with giving pets to children who, entirely naturally, tend to have butterfly minds – a year is a much longer time for a child than for an adult, and what was vitally important in December might be way down their list of priorities come August.
Are the pet and the recipient a good match?
Pets have personalities, just like we do! And a good owner-pet bond (and therefore a happy relationship) relies on them being two compatible people. As a result, the person themselves has to go and see the pups, dogs, kittens, cats, rabbits or whatever, and choose the one that gels with them. You can’t do it for them!
Can the recipient care for the pet?
This is a huge problem. Owning a pet is a privilege, not a right, and comes with heavy responsibilities. The question must be asked whether the recipient is physically capable of providing the care required (especially in the case of small children); whether they have the time; and whether they have the financial resources to do so. Remember, a rabbit might cost £15 – but you’re looking at maybe £1000 a year to feed it, care for it, and get it the veterinary attention it needs to be happy and healthy.
Is Christmas really a good time to introduce a new animal into the household?
Lots of stress, people running around, unusual and unpredictable changes to the environment, and people visiting here there and everywhere… Not the sort of calm and relaxing environment you really need to gain a new pet’s trust!
Is it a good message to send out?
By giving away an animal, are you really respecting its nature, as a sentient living creature? Or are you reinforcing the awful mindset that an animal’s only worth what we get out of it?
Does that mean you can never get a friend, relative or child a pet?
No, of course not! But it has to be a carefully thought out decision, with everyone in the household agreeing, and everyone sharing responsibility.
If you want a pet – visit a shelter or rescue centre and rehome one! If you want to give someone a present they’ll remember, look elsewhere – but probably best avoid socks and ties…
We’d like to wish you and all your pets a very happy and peaceful Christmas!