If you are a last minute holiday shopper, you may be tempted to buy Christmas or New Year gifts for loved ones without doing your homework. This time of year, parents and partners can be easily persuaded to get the most heart-warming gift of them all: a cute and cuddly new animal. It may seem like the sweetest gift idea, but often it is not most responsible decision.
Animals are unlike any other present. They require a level of commitment and responsibility that few other holiday gifts do. Often because people fail to recognize this, countless dogs, cats, birds, and other animals given as gifts during the holidays end up at animal shelters shortly after the New Year, facing a very uncertain future.
An animal gifted as a present isn’t a Christmas Day gift, it is a life-long commitment. Let’s be clear here. It’s not a gift for your life, but their life. Thinking of getting that teeny, tiny, adorable tortoise? Are you ready to ensure its care for well over a hundred years? Do you want a dazzling parrot? You can plan on 60 to even 100 years of care. Even aquatic turtles live over 30 years of age. The average lifespan of a cat is 13 – 17 years. A dog’s average lifespan is 10 to 13 years. Are you ready to dedicate yourself to this animal for that long? Animals are not just pets. They are family members for life.
Ask yourself another tough question. Have you considered the extent of responsibility, time, care, expenses, education, commitment, and love that this one animal will require? These responsibilities last far past Christmas day. Take the time and do your homework on what exactly is involved by adding an animal companion to your lifestyle.
Let’s take dogs for example. When you decide to bring home a new canine companion, please understand that you are making a commitment for the entirety of that dog’s life. So many people that have the best intentions rush this very important and life-long decision.
The honest and informative graphic below from The Uncommon Dog should help you and your family decide if you are truly ready to welcome a dog into your home at Christmas Time.
When the kids, wife, husband, or partner pleads for a new adorable pet, answer their request with a realistic question: “Are you fully committed to this soul for its life?” If either of you cannot answer with an unequivocal yes, then you might want to reconsider.
Parents, no matter how well intentioned your child may seem about caring for a new animal family member, the reality is that you will inevitably end up being the true caretaker of that animal. Deciding to give your son or daughter that puppy or kitten that he or she has been asking for is really a decision made by the adult, to add another living, breathing, needing member of your family – for which you, the parent will be ultimately responsible. It’s not quite the same, or as easy as investing in an iPad.
If you decide that “gifting” an animal isn’t the best decision, consider these options as an alternative:
- Joining Petfinder’s Foster a Lonely Pet for the holidays program. You can give a shelter dog or cat a much-needed break from the stress of shelter life.
- Donate to an animal fund such as Heifer at Hanukkah or Heifer International With gifts of livestock and training, Heifer projects help families improve their nutrition and generate income in sustainable ways.
- Donating in-kind goods; many shelters need used blankets, sheets, and towels to make the animals more comfortable. They often need food, toys, and medical supplies. Call or check online to see your shelter’s “wish list” items.
- Give a goat and two chickens. Through Animal World Vision, goats nourish hungry children and families with healthy milk, cheese, and yogurt
- Make a donation to your local shelter or local humane society.
- Start an animal food drive. This can be for an animal food bank in your community, or in conjunction with other charity drives that may be taking place through your work, house of worship, or other organization.
- Volunteer at your local shelter. You can help by walking dogs, offer love, affection, and attention to cats, assist with adoption events, and many other ways that are much needed
- Give an animal reading to a loved one. When you give the gift of an animal communication reading, you are giving to the person and the animal!
Think outside the animal gift box. Find another creative, thoughtful way to show your love this season.
The excellence of a gift lies in its appropriateness rather than in its
value. ― Charles Dudley Warner