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How To Give Pets As Gifts

by | Dec 24, 2021 | Cat Behavior & Care, Dog Training & Care | 30 comments

Giving pets as gifts prompts discussions every time the subject comes up. Most recently, we got our “gift puppy” and “gift kitten” when they adopted us, and we’re so glad Karma-Kat and Shadow-Pup are part of our holidays. But for many folks, this year means a new puppy or new kitten for Christmas. Learn how to gift pets–and please share your experiences in the comments!

puppy with ribbon

Pictures courtesy of Deposit Photos

The professionals used to say that the holidays were a TERRIBLE time to get a new pet–that impulse adoptions could leave the cat or dog without a home after the cute-holiday-thrills wore off. More recently, though, the ASPCA conducted some surveys and discovered that when done properly, these adoptions can be lasting, loving adoptions. So I had to re-think my advice.

Holidays tend to be hectic times when normal routines go out the window. Whether a baby, adult or senior rescue cat or dog, new animals need the stability of knowing what to expect. In fact, some holiday schedules may allow you to be home more during this time to help the new kitty or pooch adjust.

Holiday pets take more work, true. But just think: you’re not only giving the pet to a person—you’re giving a special human to a waiting cat or dog, a fur-kid hungry for a loving, permanent home. Happy holidays, indeed!

Everyone who adores puppies and kittens wants to share the furry love affair but not everyone is ready to receive puppies as gifts. Maybe the recipient will appreciate your thoughtfulness. But don’t gamble with a pet’s life.

Sure, Grandma is lonely and needs a wagging lap-warmer to keep her company. But she may have other plans, such as visits to the grandkids. Will the new kitten climb the Christmas tree and land in kitty jail? A puppy that eats Aunt Ethel’s hat collection will cost you favorite nephew status. A busy new parent may want a pup or kitten for their kids, but have other demands that take priority.

small cute kittenGiving Puppies and Kittens As Gifts

Before you put a bow around his neck, ask yourself these questions. Will the new owner have the time, ability, and funds to care for the dog or cat over the next 10 to 20 years? Is their space better suited for a Chihuahua, Persian or Great Dane? Do they already have a fenced yard? Will Uncle Jim’s knees keep up when hunting with that Pointer pup? Does your mom really want to chase Junior Cat off the mantel every day?

Children delight in pets as gifts but living things can’t be shoved under the bed and forgotten when the latest must-have-kid-gadget has more appeal. Remember—even if Fluffy is for the kids, the ADULT ultimately holds responsibility for the well-being of the pet. Will the child’s parents have the time to spend on one-on-one attention a new pet needs, and deserves? Be sure that the recipient truly wants and is ready for a puppy or kitten.

pet proof holidays to keep pets safe

Be sure to PET PROOF your decorations for the new baby!

I Want A Puppy/Kitten!

What if the kids, your spouse, Aunt Ethel, or a best friend have made it clear they want a furry wonder, are prepared for the responsibility and feel ready RIGHT NOW for a furry loved one in their life? You’re sure, and so are they. What can you do?

The time, the place, the person, and the pet must be right for love to bloom into a lifetime commitment. The selection should be made by the person who will live with, care for, and hopefully fall in love with the baby for the next decade or more. You still want the recipient to make this important choice, so give them that gift. Here’s 6 tips for giving pets as gifts.

6 Steps for Giving Pets As Gifts

  • Plot With Professionals. Contact the professional breeder, shelter, and/or rescue organization and explain the situation. Ask them to conspire with you—arrange to pay a deposit, or fund the purchase FOR the recipient, with the puppy or kitten to be chosen later. Perhaps also pre-pay puppy clicker training classes for the new family member, or fund the cost of the kitten’s first veterinary visit.
  • Avoid Puppy Mills. Those cute babies sold in some retail environments are born and raised in horrendous conditions. The ASPCA urges you to know what you’re getting, and pledge to avoid supporting that awful system.
  • Go Shopping. Create a “puppy or kitty care package” for the big day. Fill a puppy bed with treats, food, training and grooming equipmenthow to give pets as gifts and lots—lots!—of appropriate toys. Don’t forget to include a book or two about the pet’s breed, training or behavior tips, or other fun information.
  • Get Creative. Why not make a “gift certificate” that details this special surprise, and have that ready to present on the big day. Perhaps it could be packaged inside a pet carrier, or in an envelope attached to the collar of a stuffed St. Bernard or Siamese Cat toy.
  • dog life coverTake Your Time. Holidays can be hectic when normal routines go out the window. New puppies and kittens–even newbie adult pets–need the stability of knowing what to expect. But you can “gift” with the certificate on the special day, and the recipient can choose the best time to bring the pet home. Hopefully you also have the fun of accompanying the person later, when they choose their own furry wonder.
  • Keep Them Safe. Be sure to “pet proof” your holidays.

When you do it right, gifting with a pet can be magic. You’re not only giving the pet to a person—you’re giving a special human to a waiting fur-kid.

Have you ever given–or received–a pet as a gift? How did you prepare? What was the result? Please share! I’d love to hear your experiences.

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30 Comments

  1. Crystal

    My older sister still talks about the very best gift she ever received… her bichon puppy, Hollie. I gave her Hollie for Christmas, and she was her confidant, companion and joy for 16 years. However, I agree with your cautions regarding pets at Christmas. In fact, our bichon rescue (www.smallpawsrescue.org) where I am a foster parent do not allow Christmas adoptions. I would never have considered such a thing myself; however, I had heard from my bichon’s groomer of a rescue bichon they were trying to find a home for. I had told my sister about it in November and she had talked it over with her husband and decided to adopt her. Alas, the dog was already placed by the time she had called me. So I already knew that they had discussed adding a pet to their home and had agreed on both getting a bichon. I also decided upfront, that if Hollie was not the gift I thought she would be for Dianne, that I would keep her as a companion to my own Bichon, so the dog had a never loving home no matter what transpired. Therefore, I put out a search for a show breeder who might have a young bichon they were wanting to place. Thus Hollie entered our lives.
    She was just a puppy when she flew home with Joy (my bichon) and I. The airlines thought Hollie was Joy’s puppy, so they allowed them to fly together in the same roomy crate. When Dianne met me at the airport and we went to get Joy at animal pickup, Dianne gasped, pulled me back and said, “Crystal! There are TWO dogs in there!!” I smiled and said, Merry Christmas, Dianne.

    So, in rare, carefully considered situations, Christmas puppies (or kittens!) CAN be one of the best gifts for loved ones during the holidays. Dianne and I still hold very dear to our hearts the joy we both experienced that year and the 16 years that followed with Hollie.

    Reply
    • amyshojai

      What a lovely story…and done just the right way! My brother’s family got a bichon named holly at Christmas too…lovely doggies.
      Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

      Reply
  2. Karyl Cunningham

    Only time I can remember pets being given as gifts… Back when I was a kid, dad got mom a rabbit, but it was one he knew she’d already seen and wanted.

    My aunt and uncle got a puppy for their kids… I think last year? Sounds about right.

    Oh, and of course, when I first moved in here after getting out of college, my housewarming gift was Simba. But we’d raised her from a kitten and I had already been hinting at them that I wanted her, pointing out that she was my favorite and I wanted a cat as soon as I could get one since I couldn’t have any pets in the dorms or apartment.

    Reply
    • amyshojai

      See, that’s ANOTHER good example of how to do it–the person already made it clear and also you chose Simba. Thanks for sharing!

      Reply
  3. Anna

    If someone wants a pet at this time of year, please consider either getting a gift certificate towards the adoption, adopting one from a rescue or shelter, or fostering a pet. If shelters and rescues do a good job matching up people and do their normal screening and educating, getting a pet should be fine at any time of year.

    To refuse to adopt out pets during the holidays often means dogs, and especially cats, in pounds may be killed. Although a temporary foster family my be more work for a shelter or rescue group, they can help save lives. Lots of places have to increase their volunteer helpers during this season, so why not turbocharge the adoptions? Anyone who is refused a pet from a rescue should try a different rescue or shelter. Surveys show most people agree that homeless pets deserve a chance to get adopted, and the public wants to help save lives. A “failed foster” is just another way of saying a “successful adoption”!

    Reply
    • amyshojai

      Thanks for visiting the blog and commenting. You make great points!

      Reply
  4. Arlene Castro

    Thanks for choosing my kitties photo..it’s one of my favorites of Lady Tornado.

    Reply
  5. K.B. Owen

    Hi Amy! Great timing for me – we’re going to meet a cat tonight at one of the SPCA’s foster homes! We’ve been emailing back and forth for weeks, and can’t wait to meet our little girl. Hoping the visit goes well and we take her home with us! It’s my hubby’s Christmas gift to me. I’ve been wanting a cat for a long time. The whole family is on board!

    Reply
    • Amy Shojai

      YAYAYAYAY!!! Kathy, that’s fantastic. You know I’ll want pictures. 🙂 Paws crossed she’ll be coming home tonight.

      Reply
  6. Brenda

    Happy to hear good news about adopting since shelter pets are in dire need of getting out especially around Christmas when too many are doing other things while the shelters-that-are-really-kill-pounds kill even more of them! Any type of pet you want from the world’s most beautiful calicos to perfect Burmese cats & chihuahuas & interesting & unique to this world combinations have been dumped in kill pounds & need help to escape alive. Those looking for watch-pets might note that cats hear in higher ranges than dogs and also make less noise (for those no longer accustomed to putting up with barking). I have found our rescue cats alert me when I need to know someone/something is outside far more clearly than family dogs ever did or than neighborhood dogs that bark at all leaves falling one by one in autumn.

    Perhaps a senior cat is the choice for those not ready to chase kittens or juveniles! For those in the 12 state or more area allowed to adopt from kill pound NYC ACC (that calls itself a shelter) they have perfect sounding already socialized & perfect cats labeled “Beginners” for those not used to pets yet. I gather that all city pounds have many wonderful animals waiting to be rescued & many labeled hard to get along with are easy to get along with darlings who just smell death in those places & are worried! Rabbits as well as cats and dogs can be found in pounds.

    I have noticed a number of gift pets being returned when reading of these pets online in kill pounds & would add to your blog article that one should point out to the recipient that pets are a lifetime commitment & one should NEVER EVER take one to a kill pound (who often call themselves shelters) but ONLY part with them if going homeless & then only giving them to a loving person or family, never a kill pound! (That line to pet dumpers about “we only put down sick animals” skips the information that the kill pounds have diseases like colds they pass around….) I say this only because so many people one would think would know do not seem to know.

    I had noticed a number of pets dumped to NYC ACC kill pound that were described as having been gifts a year to six years or more later. That is why I remind all to remind everyone to tell them they cannot dump a gift to a kill pound, not even if they suddenly hate the giver. So glad to hear that most people aren’t doing that!

    Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays to all!

    Reply
    • Amy Shojai

      Thanks for your comments, Brenda. It’s tragic anytime someone must relinquish a pet, for whatever reason, to any establishment. Sadly, the “no-kill” facilities often turn away lovely pets when there’s no room at the inn . . .

      Reply
  7. Brenda

    I belatedly read the other posts that covered many of my points.

    Here are descriptions of some of the cats in danger of death in New York City’s kill pound:
    https://www.facebook.com/PetsOnDeathRow

    and

    http://www.urgentpetsondeathrow.org/

    You can see that perfect, beautiful, lost pets end up in kill pounds.

    And for New Year’s let us all stop calling kill pounds “shelters” even when that is in the legal name of the pound!

    Reply
  8. Kelly

    I don’t understand the idea of giving a pet as a gift. I can understand if this is something a family has planned for, discussed with each other and truly understands the commitment that, then a pet can be a great addition to a home. But why not wait till after the mad rush of the holidays when things have calmed down and you can focus on the new addition.

    Reply
    • Amy Shojai

      Yep, that’s what the blog says, too. We’re in agreement.

      Reply
  9. Dash Kitten

    Unless the pet is a committed gift for more or less the whole family then I would not recommed giving a pet. If it is part of a whole family activity and action then great but not for just one child or person with out a lot of research.

    Reply
    • Amy Shojai

      Exactly! I think we’re preaching to the choir here. *s*

      Reply
  10. Pawesome Cats

    I gave my mum a ginger kitten as a Mother’s Day gift, but it wasn’t a surprise. We’d discussed it thoroughly first. Amber is a much loved family member and it turned out to be a great decision.

    Reply
  11. Talent Hounds

    I’m happy to see some positive information regarding this topic. We always say doing tons of research before considering adopting is key, so if someone has and is ready for a pet, adopting a rescue and giving them a loving home especially this time of year can be amazing.

    Merry Christmas and a very happy 2017!

    Reply
  12. Tonya Wilhelm

    Great tips. I can’t even imagine giving someone an actual living being to care for and connect with. It’s such an import decision and that connection one makes while choosing is immense. Great tips.

    Reply
  13. The Daily Pip

    Your tips are spot on. Love the idea of putting the gift certificate in the carrier.

    I also have mixed feelings on this. I love the idea of bringing shelter pets home for the holidays, but always worry about people making bad decisions or as you said, kids forgetting about pets a few weeks later. Ironically, my first dog was a birthday present and that worked out pretty well!

    Reply
  14. Ruth Epstein

    I am totally against giving pets for gifts unless the entire family is involved because unfortunately a lot of them are returned to shelters. Rather foster over the holidays a pet, see how it goes and then move forward

    Reply
  15. Cathy Armato

    I’ve been blogging about this topic like crazy! Too many people give a pet as a gift without considering these points. When they do, it can result in heartache. I’ve heard about the ASPCA report but my own experience has been that not carefully considering giving someone else a pet as a gift can mean trouble. One of the most common ages for surrendered pets at our shelter was a year to a year and a half. People often love puppies and are very tolerant of them but once they get a bit older it becomes an issue. They often give the dog away to someone else, advertise adoption of it online, or surrender it to a shelter or rescue. I suspect the ASPCA doesn’t get all the numbers, I don’t think it can be tracked that easily. Owners often don’t bring a pet back to the same shelter they got it from and often don’t tell the truth about why they’re surrendering a pet. It’s so important to continue sharing the message that giving a pet as a gift is great but it must be done properly, carefully considering the recipients lifestyle, finances, etc.
    Love & Biscuits,
    Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them

    Reply
  16. Sweet Purrfections

    I’ve never received a pet as a gift. All of my fur children were planned for and they were able to choose me.

    Reply
  17. Tenacious Little Terrier

    Mr. N was technically a mutual anniversary gift but we had been talking about it for a while and we picked him out together. Well the bf approved. He was my choice!

    Reply
  18. Puppy Tales Studio

    I think it depends.. For example, if my hubbie would want to give me a pet as a gift, I would like to be included in the decision making.. I would want to visit shelters together, talk with the staff about the history.. Since the dog/cat is going to be my responsibility.. If you want to buy a pup, you should be very lucky to be able to find a breeder that has an 8 weeks old pup available.. Many people will just go to one of those horrible pet stores, because they can instantly buy a puppy, whereas with a responsible breeder, there is much more planning and time needed.. Wishing you a very merry Christmas and a Happy Newyear!!

    Love,
    Valerie

    Reply
  19. Bryn Nowell

    I received a cat named Mongo for Christmas one year in my pre-teen years. He was an adult, rescue who had a lopped kinky tail. He was the BEST companion and he truly helped me to be the animal lover I am today. Gifting a pet during the holidays can be a magical experience if done thoughtfully.

    Reply
  20. Princely Paws (@princely_paws12)

    Gifting a pet must always be a very well planned and informeed decision and never one of those moments where you decide to just get up one day and gift yourself a pet

    Reply
  21. Kim L

    One story I heard about is that of a couple. The breeder was criticized for placing a puppy at Christmas, but she explained the situation beautifully. She said they were a married couple, no children, no close family (parents had passed away, all other relatives lived far away). And they dearly wanted a new dog to bring joy to their lives and something to fuss over at Christmas time. It was their gift to each other. By all reports, they had a marvelous day and the pup was doted on from the very beginning. Smart people and very loving and thoughtful breeder. Yes, she brought the pup to them on Christmas day. Best gift ever, I would think.

    Sis’ birthday is in December, so this works also. We had a rescued Calico kitty, who was supposed to be mine. I didn’t think it would work out (Annie doesn’t share well) but knew Sis would give the kitty a really good home and that the other kitty would love having company. Sis said she would pay me back for vet bills, microchipping, adoption fees, etc. And I said, “No. She’s your birthday gift. Don’t worry about it.” Mandy is going to be thirteen on Jan. 2nd. Sis still says, “Best birthday gift ever!”

    Reply
    • Amy Shojai

      Kim, that’s perfect! Yes, circumstances always vary and a hard and fast rule rarely works. Love the story about the breeder. And also delighted that the Calico kitty found the perfect home!

      Reply

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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