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Giving Pets as Gifts: Getting the perfect pet

2 PAWS UP- Holiday theme 2010- 5 x 7It’s holiday time and many of us are looking for the perfect gifts to give to our loved ones. If you or your family members are pet lovers, it’s very possible that you’ll want to give a pet as a gift. I know first hand the excitement and happiness that a pet, given as a gift, can bring. But remember that there is a right way and a wrong way for giving pets as gifts. This season, make sure you give gifts in a way that makes everyone happy, including the pet.

Here’s some pet gifting stories from my past that are pretty illustrative.

I’ve always loved cats, so as a kid I always wanted a kitty. Luckily we also usually needed a cat to control the mouse population in and around our house since we lived on the edge of an open field. So it worked out that my hopes for a cat companion were usually met. My sister, however, always wanted a llama. She got a turtle instead.

One Christmas season, we went to visit some friends. They had an adult calico named Blue, the sweetest creature on earth, who they were trying to find a home for. I remember holding this kitty and turning on the pleading eyes for my parents. They just smiled and said, “maybe.” Well, Christmas morning rolled around and, in the middle of our unwrapping frenzy, my mom came out of the back room with Blue in her arms. Needless to say, the rest of my Christmas day was devoted to cuddling and playing with Blue. She became one of our family’s all-time favorite cats.

On a different Christmas, my sister was campaigning for a llama, although we all knew she wouldn’t really get one. My mom did joke about borrowing one of our neighbor’s llamas, but the logistics were just too much trouble. On Christmas Eve, my Dad invited me to go on a secret mission. We went to my aunt and uncle’s house and found that they had been babysitting a painted turtle for my sister. My parents had purchased the turtle, tank, rocks, plants, food, and filter all in advance and had set them up. Our job was to get everything over to our house for Christmas morning. The next day my sister came down to discover her own turtle. Admittedly, not the same as a llama, but still pretty cool.

Having known and seen the joy of receiving a pet as a gift, I would never discourage giving pets as gifts, but I would strongly recommend that they be given in safe, thoughtful, and appropriate ways, both for the sake of the pet and the recipient.

Both these stories illustrate some of the good elements of giving pets as gifts. Let’s break them down:

Does the receiver want a pet?
In the case of my sister and me, the answer was yes. We clearly wanted and were ready to take care of a pet.

If you’re thinking about getting a pet as a gift for someone, ask yourself this question. If the answer is yes, proceed. If not, you’ll want to start thinking of another option. Pets placed with unprepared or unwilling owners are often mistreated or abandoned. Do the pet and your friend a favor and think of something else.

Which and what kind of pet?
In my case, my parents had it easy. They knew exactly which pet to get for me. In the case of my sister, however, they weren’t as sure. For my sister, the novelty of getting a pet soon wore off. She had not anticipated or really welcomed the prospect of tank cleanings and other facets of turtle keeping. As a result, my sister wasn’t as happy with her pet as she might have been.

If you know what pet your family member wants, down to the exact animal, then you are on sure footing. If you know someone wants a pet but you don’t know what kind or which one, proceed with caution. Your son or daughter might have bonded with a particular puppy in the window. Imagine their disappointment when you present them with a lovely parakeet instead.

Would this person like to choose his or her own pet?
By and large, the answer is probably yes, especially when it comes to pets that are more emotionally connectable (like dogs, cats). I got to choose Blue, and thanks to my parents’ acting skills, I never suspected I’d get her as a present. Had I wanted a frog, a hamster, or a fish, it wouldn’t have been as essential for me to pick my own out. The best path is to know your recipient well and know what they would prefer.

How can I still make it fun and exciting?
If you don’t know what kind or which pet your friend or family member wants, don’t despair. You can still make a great gift. You can purchase a gift card or enclose a note with the promise of a trip to the pet store. If you know the animal type, you can buy supplies for the pet and give them as a stand-in gift. For example, if you know that your spouse wants a dog, you can wrap up doggie treats, a dog bed, or a leash and collar. You still have something to wrap and give, and your spouse gets to pick out the perfect pet. Have fun and be creative. The gift of happy anticipation can be just as great as the gift of surprise.

As you’re considering the feelings and excitement of your recipient, don’t forget the other half of the equation: the pet. This is a living creature that also has feelings and needs. Read the next blog post to find out more on how to appropriately take care of the gift pet’s needs.

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