CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Imagine the joy of a loved one waking up on Christmas morning and seeing a new cat or dog sitting under the tree. While a new pet may be an exciting gift to give during the holidays, experts warn that adding a member to the family extends well beyond the holidays.
“I think the biggest thing to keep in mind is it’s a lifelong commitment, you do have to pay for the animal throughout the year, it’s not just a one-time thing. So, I think people need to be prepared financially to be able to care for that animal throughout the year,” said Vanessa Scarbrough, the Field Supervisor at Animal Care Services for the City of Corpus Christi.
If the pet will be a gift to someone in a different household, it is important to think of how that person will interact with a pet, and if it is a child, consider if the child’s parents are able to care for the pet.
“Keep in mind who you’re getting the animal for, it’s not about what animal you would want if you were getting it for themselves. Make sure that animal is a good fit for a home, also keep in mind is that person ready to take on the responsibility of a pet? If it is a child, do you have the parents’ approval? The biggest thing we see, a lot of people down here like to say the pet belongs to the child, and that is incorrect. The pet is owned by the adult in the household, so you are responsible for that pet, it is not the child’s responsibility,” Scarbrough said.
The ASPCA recommends “the giving of pets as gifts only to people who have expressed a sustained interest in owning one, and the ability to care for it responsibly,” according to the organization’s statement on giving pets as gifts.
When searching for a pet that will enter a household, it is important to consider the lifestyle of the people in that household, how a pet will fit into that dynamic, and what type of pet would fit best.
“The pet should match your energy level, as far as what lifestyle you live, so that you guys do get along well and can have a lifelong relationship together,” Scarbrough said. “There are different personality types in animals, just like in people, and some people are going to prefer the high-energy dogs, some people are going to prefer the senior dog that just wants to sleep on the couch all day. You definitely need to take the animal’s behavior in mind.”
Additionally, if there is another animal already in the house, it is important to make sure the new animal will fit in well with the current animals, and Scarbrough recommends bringing existing animals to meet the new one before making a decision to bring it home.
“Sometimes they have other pets in the home that they don’t get along with. We do encourage people if you have other dogs in the home, to bring them with you, so that you can do a meet and greet, and make sure the animals will get along before you bring them into the home,” she said.
Dogs coming from a shelter may take some time to adjust to a new home, so allow them to make that adjustment before making any decisions.
“Just keep in mind, it does take some time for a shelter animal to adjust to a new home, it can take up to three months for them fully to acclimate to a new home. So, give them that time to adjust before you make that decision on if you’re going to keep them, or return them, or not,” Scarbrough said.
The surprise of a new pet can be exciting, but Scarbrough recommends allowing the person who will receive the gift to be involved in the process of choosing the new pet.
A study conducted by the ASPCA is 2013 revealed that research showed receiving a pet as a gift either increased the love or attachment to the pet, or had no impact on it, and 86% of pets referred to in its study stayed in the home.