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As we approach the holiday season, many of us will begin to brainstorm gift ideas for our friends and loved ones. Some of us are drawn to unique home goods; others are inclined to purchase electronics, books, or clothes for the special people in our lives. Still others consider a much more controversial gift: that of an animal, such as a puppy, kitten, hamster, baby chick or rabbit. Of course, when animals are given as gifts, they are usually purchased with the best of intentions. Who doesn’t want to see their child rejoice at the sight of a cute and cuddly puppy or kitten?

However, in spite of all this, animals should never be reserved as gifts for special occasions such as Easter, Hanukkah, Christmas, birthdays, and other holidays. Before you head to the pet store, let’s consider some possible reasons that purchasing a pet as a gift might not be the best idea:

1. They Lose Their Novelty

There’s a certain expressed newness that’s attached to receiving a pet. The first few weeks with a new puppy or kitten is a series of firsts: first walk, first toy, first time meeting your friends. But what happens when the novelty wears off? Suddenly, the dog tearing up your shoes or the cat scratching your curtains isn’t so cute anymore. When we receive a pet as a gift, we simply aren’t mentally prepared for the responsibility that emerges when the novelty fades away.

2. Pets can be Costly

When someone else gives us a pet, rarely are they thinking about the substantial costs that follow their original purchase. Let’s face it: animals can be quite expensive. They require food, bedding, and toys, not to mention regular and spontaneous veterinary costs that may arise throughout the animal’s lifetime. If we receive an animal from someone else, it’s likely that we have not given the proper forethought to the costs required to care for an animal.

3. An Unsuited Lifestyle

Beyond fiscal unreadiness, your lifestyle may not be suited to give the best possible life to the animal. For example, if your work schedule requires you to be away from home all day, and you cannot afford a dog sitter, your new puppy might suffer from severe separation anxiety. Similarly, if you live in a six story walk-up, this might not be ideal for a dog that needs to frequently use the bathroom. In these circumstances, it is often the case that the owner will decide to get rid of their pet, which may be confusing and disorienting to the animal.

4. Young Children may Lose Interest

Often, pets are given to young children with the intention of serving as a source of entertainment. While some children and their pets form lasting and meaningful bonds, it is often the case that children will lose interest in an animal over time, leaving the pet feeling neglected and alone. If you want a child to have an animal companion, it is recommended that the child play an active role in selecting an animal to adopt.

5. No Background on the Pet

Animals that are gifted come with a lot more than a bow – often, these animals can harbor illness or disease, especially if they were purchased from a pet store. Not only this, but there’s a good chance you won’t have information about their past, which may be riddled with abuse and neglect. In turn, this could result in your pet exhibiting aggressive or timid behavior.

6. Supporting Puppy and Kitty Mills

While not all pets as gifts are purchased from a store that obtains its animals from a puppy or kitty mill, many individuals will opt to purchase them in this manner because it is inexpensive and convenient. If you purchase or receive an animal from such a store, you are endorsing an industry of cruelty.

7. Commodifying The Animal

When we purchase an animal and offer him as a gift, the implication is that the animal is a material object, that which can be bought and gifted – not unlike electronics, books, or clothes. It is a much more meaningful and rewarding experience when we seek and adopt animals of our own accord, viewing them as invaluable members of our family.

Alternative gifts

Instead of purchasing and giving a pet as a gift, there are other ways to spoil the animal lover in your life. Consider arranging to volunteer at an animal shelter, visit an animal sanctuary, or sponsor a farmed animal (and visit him or her).

Image source: FineArtAmerica