It's easy to get caught up in the Christmas spirit. We all want to buy presents for our family and friends which will they will love. But before you do go ahead and buy a cat (or any pet for that matter) as a gift, please take the time to honestly answer these questions.
Buying for a child:
If the pet is for your own child, are you aware that the novelty of a kitten may well wear off? As the parents, you are responsible for ensuring the cat is properly looked after. That includes financially responsible for vet bills, food bills etc., and also responsible for the cat's care. Litter trays, grooming (if necessary) etc.
- If you are not the child's parents, do the parents know you plan to buy their child a kitten? Are they happy to have a pet in the household? Are they aware that the responsibility of the cat will fall on their shoulders? Can they afford the upkeep?
- Just bear in mind that a child will often promise the world when they want something, and at the time they no doubt mean every promise they make. However the fact remains that sometimes they don't follow through with these promises. So, if you do decide to buy your child a pet, the responsibility of the pet ultimately lies on your shoulders. So, you should be happy and prepared to take on this responsibility.
Buying for a friend or relative:
It is always fun to give a surprise gift to friends and family members, but when it comes to giving pets as gifts it is important that you discuss your plans with the recipient to make sure they are happy to receive a pet.
Before committing to buying a pet ask yourself the following questions:
- Does the person really want a pet? Just because somebody expresses a love of cats or dogs doesn't mean they actually want the full-time commitment of having one themselves.
- Have they actually told you outright that they would like a pet in the very near future?
- Can they afford to keep a pet?
- Does their lifestyle suit having a pet? For example, if they travel a lot, it may not be suitable.
- Are they aware and committed to caring for the pet for the next 15-20 years?
- Do they plan to have a family in the future? If so, are they willing to include the pet in this, or would the pet be discarded as soon as a child came along?
- Do they rent or own their property? It is often difficult for people renting to keep pets.
Choosing the pet:
If you and the receiver (be it your child, or a friend/relative) decide to go ahead and buy a pet as a gift then please let them choose the animal themselves. Again, it takes away the element of surprise, but it is important they choose the pet they are to live with. By all means do the legwork, find out which shelters are available or breeders are in your area, go along with them when they choose the pet but don't choose it yourself.
It's also important to make sure that the pet suits the owner. For example, you wouldn't want to get an active breed of cat for an elderly person. You wouldn't want to get an aloof breed for somebody who needs a close companion. It's important that they adopt the right pet to suit their needs, their requirements, and their lifestyle.
Bringing the pet home:
When buying a pet as a gift, it's best not to bring it home on the day, as birthdays and especially Christmas are often busy occasions, with lots of visitors coming and going.
The best way is to give them a pet related gift on the day, be it a collar, a book, food bowls etc., or even a gift certificate from a shelter/breeder, and allow them to choose a pet for themselves when they are ready or after the holiday period.
Please, never purchase a pet for somebody as a surprise. So many unwanted pets are dumped on shelters just after Christmas. If people just put some thought into buying the pet in the first place, shelters wouldn't have to pick up the pieces further down the track.
I cannot emphasise enough just how important it is to make sure the pet is wanted, and will be properly cared for the next 15-20 years. Ask yourself, if you are buying a pet for a teenager, what will happen to the pet when they move out of home to go to university for example? Will you be willing to keep the pet with you, and care for it? What about buying a pet for an elderly friend or relative? What will happen to it if they pass away before the pet? Would you be willing to take on the pet for the remainder of his life?
If you are buying the pet, then you should be willing to take on full responsibility for the pet should it be necessary in the future.
Pets are for life, and should never, ever be purchased on the spur of the moment. Please think it through carefully and thoroughly before bringing a pet into somebody's life.
Shelters are swamped with unwanted Christmas pets in the new year, please do not contribute to this problem.