Pets as gifts: To give or not to give?

We've all seen the adorable videos—an unsuspecting husband, wife, or child opens a present and, much to their surprise, out pops a puppy or kitten! While this is cute and fun, there are many things to consider before giving someone a pet as a present.

“Remember that you’re gifting someone a tremendous responsibility,” says Andy Roark, DVM, MS, author and contributor at DVM360 and Vetstreet. “Pets are a decade-long commitment of time, energy, and money. Talk it out and remember that a pet is a serious commitment.”

The Colorado Veterinary Medical Association recommends the following Do’s and Don’ts before choosing a pet as a gift. We’ve put together the list, so make sure you check it twice if you’re considering gifting a four-legged friend this Christmas!

Don’t get a pet on impulse. Even if a friend or family member says that they want a pet, don’t commit to one unless they are absolutely sure that they want it, and have taken time to think about what kind of pet they want and how they will care for it.

Don’t make it a surprise. If the person you are getting the pet for is serious about having a new furry (or scaly or feathery) family member, let them pick it out. Pets have different needs and personalities, so you want to make sure it’s the right fit for the person receiving it. If your friend or family member does not feel a connection with the pet or cannot care for it properly, it will likely be given away or end up in a shelter. You wouldn’t want to inadvertently add to the overpopulation of companion animals.

Do contribute to the pet’s care. Adoption fees are not the only expenses that come with a pet. Pets need food, supplies, and toys, and will need to see a veterinarian at least once a year. In fact, the ASPCA estimates that the minimum cost of humane care for cats and dogs for the first year is over $1,000. A great gift for a new owner would be to put money towards a savings account for the pet or pet insurance to help cover its healthcare costs for annual wellness exams, vaccinations, and if it gets sick or injured.

Do have a good talk about the pet’s future. There are many important questions to ask potential pet owners before committing to having a pet. Will they be able to afford care for the pet? Will they be able to take the pet with them if they move? Are their family members or roommates okay with having a pet in their home? What will they do with the pet if they can’t take care of it anymore? These are all important considerations to be made before adding an animal companion to the family.

Holidays, birthdays, and anniversaries may only come once a year, but pets are a big responsibility every day for many years. It is important to think about the commitment and bond between a pet and a potential owner before making the decision to bring one into their home.

Thank you to our friends at the Colorado Veterinary Medical Association for these great tips. Join the Colorado Veterinary Medical Association on Facebook and receive tips on pet health, behavior, upcoming events, breaking news, and much more!