Why Pets Make Bad Gifts

While a pet can be a wonderful addition to any home, giving a pet as a gift is not so wonderful. These creatures are more than just presents – they’re living, breathing beings that need time to adjust to their new home, as well as lifelong care and commitment. Cats and dogs given as gifts are more likely to end up in shelters, but they aren’t the only ones. Bunnies, guinea pigs, ducks, chickens, and other animals are also abandoned this time of year. There are so many factors to consider and so many things that can go wrong when giving an animal as a gift. If you’re thinking about doing so, think again.

Returns Not Accepted

Sure, that puppy in the window is cute, but will the recipient of your gift feel the same way? You may like cats, but what if they don’t? If the pet doesn’t suit the recipient, they may not put time into bonding with them which could result in their return to the shelter or animal abandonment. Animals returned to shelters could be euthanized. Shelters often have limited space, and their resources for rehoming incoming pets can be limited. Don’t add to the strain that shelters already face.

It Isn’t Fair

Gifting a pet can be unfair to the owner and the pet. Animals – particularly those that have been in stressful and/or abusive situations in the past – will most likely be sensitive to any change in their surroundings. Even pets without prior histories could have trouble adjusting to homes with children or other animals or a new home in general. Bringing home a pet is life-changing decision for all of you.

A Long Term Commitment… For Someone Else

Pets require a lifetime of love and care. The average lifespan of a cat is anywhere from 13-17 years, but some can live well into their 20s. For dogs, life expectancy varies by breed, but 10-13 years is the average. Some small breeds can live to be almost 20 years old. Birds are the opposite: the larger the species the longer the lifespan, with some parrots living up to 75 years. A recipient could be clueless to the amount of time and energy it takes to care for a pet.

It’s Not a Gift – It’s a Responsibility

Pets are the gift that keeps on giving, but they take a whole lot, too. They require food, shelter, medicine, doctor’s visits, toys, and plenty of attention – and that’s just the bare minimum. Some animals, young or old, may require behavioral training or have costly pre-existing medical conditions. In 2019, pet owners in the U.S. spent almost $96 billion on pet care alone. Your recipient may not have the budget or time commitments necessary for pet ownership.

Not Age-Appropriate

Often, parents buy pets as gifts for young children, or adult children buy pets for elderly parents. In both of these instances, the recipient is not likely to have the money, time, attention span, and physical or mental stamina to continue caring for a pet throughout the remainder of its lifetime. If a pet is beyond the capabilities of a particular person, it is likely that pet will end up in a shelter within two years.

Animals Are Not Disposable Playthings

While pets enrich our lives in so many ways, it isn’t always fun and games. There is a novelty factor in receiving a pet as a gift, and once that novelty wears off, the pet is at risk of being neglected. This is especially true of recipients who may not have the emotional maturity or attention span to properly care for a pet. Pets are living creatures that experience emotions and anxieties much like humans. Therefore, placing them in a positive, loving environment is crucial to their well-being. Giving pets as gifts sends the wrong message.

What You Can Do

If you’re still determined that a pet is the perfect gift, pay the shelter adoption fee. This allows the person or family to choose a pet that suits their emotional and physical needs best. If they decide against a pet, consider the adoption fee as a donation to a shelter in need.

You can also show support by helping the recipient understand the challenges and benefits of owning a pet. Go to local shelters with them. Help them make the decision that is best for them and the animal. Once they’ve adopted their new furbaby, treat them both to a bonding experience, like a training session, charity run, a day out, or pet painting class. You can’t give them the gift of a pet, but you can give them an experience they won’t ever forget.