Should Santa bring a pet for Christmas? It depends

Pet advocates suggest gift-wrapping a collar, leash and pet toys, then going as a family to select a pet after the holidays.
Pet advocates suggest gift-wrapping a collar, leash and pet toys, then going as a family to select a pet after the holidays. THE WICHITA EAGLE

Thinking about a pet as a gift for Christmas?

Good or bad idea?

It depends, experts say.

Is it a surprise or is the person getting the cat or dog aware that soon there will be the pitter patter of little paws (or perhaps big ones) in the house?

Advocates want to find loving, forever homes for pets. All it takes is a little education and planning.

“We don’t think giving pets as gifts is ever a good idea,” said Nancy Longacre, executive director of PAWS Atlanta, an animal welfare nonprofit and no-kill shelter. “We want every pet to feel like and be treated like a member of the family. So, in order to make that happen, everybody in the family needs to meet that pet and make sure it’s the right fit for everyone who is living in the home. Once that happens, then the likelihood that it’s going to be a successful adoption or placement is really, really high.”

Longacre suggests buying a collar, leash, pet toys and perhaps a feeding bowl, wrap them and place them in a gift box, then go as a family to select your pet. “That way, they still get the surprise of ‘Wow.’”

Pets have personalities, just like humans, so you want to make sure everyone gets along.

You may not want a high-energy Jack Russell terrier, for example, in a home of senior citizens or very young children.

“Having a pet is a lifelong commitment,” said Karen Hirsch, public relations director for the LifeLine Animal Project, “and the person receiving the pet has to be actively involved in the decision to take on this kind of commitment. They’re going to be caring for it medically, its needs for exercise, food and attention.”

Timing may also be a factor. If you plan to have a house full of company during the hectic holiday period, then perhaps you might want to postpone bringing a new pet into the family.

You’ll want to give the pet time to acclimate to a new family and new surroundings. You don’t want them to be stressed.

You also want to protect the pet. Not everyone is a pet person. You don’t want a guest to roughly handle your new addition or feed him something that can be harmful.

Tips for adopting a pet

Here are some questions to ask yourself as you decide what type of pet to get:

  • What type of animal is the best fit for your home? Will you be able to live with pet hair, a litter box or the occasional wear and tear caused by pets?
  • If you have children, how will having a pet affect them? Will everyone in your home welcome an animal?
  • If you rent, do you have permission from the property owner? Are there monthly fees and/or an extra deposit?
  • How much space do you have inside and outside your home? Will you need a fenced yard? How much time do you have to spend with a pet?
  • What is your activity level? Are you sedentary or physically active?
  • Do you have the financial resources if your pet has a medical crisis and has high veterinary bills?
  • Do you have someone who can be a secondary caregiver if you are away from home? If not, how will you provide care for your pet when you travel?

Sources: LifeLine Animal Project, staff