Rescued animals can be wonderful additions to a family – but just not when they’re given as gifts to unsuspecting recipients during one of the most chaotic times of the year. Each year, animal shelters are inundated with dogs and cats given as gifts during the festive period.
The following are some reasons why you should think twice before giving an animal as a gift this Christmas:
Animals can’t simply be “re-gifted”.
An embarrassing Christmas sweater from Aunt Cheryl, a useless gadget, and a tacky tie are easy enough to return, re-gift, or toss in the attic and forget. But animals are living, breathing, feeling beings who can’t be re-gifted if they don’t suit a person’s fancy.
A dog or cat is for life, not just for Christmas.
Sure, that kitten or puppy might look cute peeking out from under the Christmas tree – but adding animal companions to the family is an important decision that requires a lifetime commitment to caring for them. Remember: a new puppy or kitten could be a part of the family for 15 years or longer.
The consequences can be dreadful.
Many shelters reach their capacity within the first few weeks of the new year, when the tidal wave of surrendered animals hits after the holidays, leaving shelter workers to face the heartbreaking prospect of euthanising healthy, friendly, loving cats and dogs because of a lack of space and resources to care for them all.
Worst. Gift. Ever.
Cute puppies won’t seem like much of a “present” after they chew up a priceless heirloom, decide to use the Christmas tree as a toilet, bark through the night, and rack up hundreds of dollars in vet bills for vaccinations, sterilisation, and flea and de-worming treatments – and that’s just when they’re healthy!
It’s a stressful time of year.
When you’re hosting houseguests, cooking up a storm, and travelling to see the in-laws, the period between Christmas and New Year’s Day can get pretty chaotic – making it tough for even well-adjusted animals to settle into their new homes.
It contributes to animal homelessness.
In the days, weeks, and months following the holidays, already overwhelmed animal shelters across the country will be flooded with animals who were given as gifts, only to be tossed out along with the tree when the novelty wears off or their guardians discover that caring for rambunctious puppies and kittens is a full-time job.
Animals aren’t like other gifts.
They require lots of time, patience, and money – all of which are scarce during the holidays. If you’re thinking about giving a furry friend as a gift this Christmas, stick to the kind found in toy shops.
Kids can be irresponsible (because, well, they’re kids).
It’s great to teach children about responsibility, but after the puppy love wears off (and it often does very quickly), parents are the ones who are left to do all the dirty work – literally!
Animal companions can put serious pressure on the purse strings.
The money spent on food, toys, insurance, vaccinations, and vet bills can quickly add up. Over a lifetime, the total cost per canine family member comes to around $25,000. The RSPCA estimates that the first-year ownership cost ranges from $2,350 to $5,220.
Animals are not “one size fits all”.
All animals have their charms – but that doesn’t mean they’ll be compatible with your loved one’s activity level, experience, and personality. For this reason, it’s important to make sure the animals are suited to the lifestyle and temperament of the people who will be responsible for them.
If your loved one is prepared to make a lifelong commitment to a furry dependent and has plenty of time, money, patience, and love to give, consider giving a “gift voucher” for an animal from your local shelter. That way, the recipient can decide which animal is the best match and when the time is right.
Most importantly, you’ll be giving more than the gift of unconditional love and companionship – you’ll also be giving the gift of life to a homeless animal.