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Giving Pets as Gifts: Taking Care of the Pet

Sophie GIn the last blog post, we talked about using these questions to make sure that you’re being thoughtful and smart in your pet gift giving.

Does the receiver want a pet?
Make sure you’re not giving a pet to someone who’s not ready or able to take care of it.

Which and what kind of pet?
If you know someone wants a pet, be sure that you’re getting the one they will actually want.

Would this person like to choose his or her own pet?
Even if you know the kind of pet that someone wants, it might be best to let that person choose his or her own pet. This of course is relative to each situation. If your son wants a fish, you’re probably ok to buy one to surprise him with. If your spouse wants a dog but he or she hasn’t gone and interacted with any dogs at the store or the shelter, you’d be better off to give them that opportunity first so they can pick out their best doggie friend themselves.

If you’re unsure about any of these questions, you’ll want to think about alternative gifts or pet-related gifts, just to be sure that your friend or family member is happy with the outcome.

If you do have a pretty good idea about what kind of pet or which exact one to get, you can move on to the surprise phase. At this point the question you want to ask yourself is…

What is best for the pet?
Consider how you can make this experience as comfortable for the pet as possible. A good rule of thumb: if you wouldn’t like to be treated this way, don’t treat the pet that way.

Pet’s come with luggage:
Would you move to a new home or take a trip without any luggage or money? Of course not; you need to stay protected, fed, and able to meet your needs. When you move a new pet into a home, you need to take care of those same needs for them. While it’s fun to present a box with an adorable puppy peeking out of it, you better be prepared with a doggy dish, food, bedding, and everything else that comes with caring for a dog. As a side note, it’s only considerate that you provide the pet’s habitat, otherwise you’re giving a gift that will cost the recipient a lot in start-up costs. At the very least, you’ll want to provide the habitat items (such as a cage, bed, carrier, or tank) and food sufficient to last a few days until the new owner can get his or her pet more permanently settled.

Housing arrangements:
If you’re planning to surprise your gift recipient, you probably will get the pet (and all their supplies) in advance. Make appropriate arrangements to keep the pet comfortable and happy until they can settle down in their new home. My parents got a turtle for my sister for Christmas and had my aunt and uncle babysit it until Christmas morning. Take care of the pet yourself or arrange someone else to help until you can give it.

A comfortable and safe giving method:
You wouldn’t want to spend a night wrapped in a box with no way to get out, so odds are, a pet wouldn’t appreciate that type of treatment either. For the pets that naturally live in smaller containers, such as fish, small rodents, and reptiles, your best option is to set them up in their living space and present them as a whole, habitat and all. The pet will be happy to have full access to food and water and it will have its waste needs provided for. Note that if you’re leaving the pet and habitat out to be discovered, be sure to put it in a safe, stable place and away from high-traffic areas where it could be knocked over. If you have other large animals, put the new pet out of their reach.
For gifting larger pets, the less time spent in a confined space, the better. If you’re giving a pet like a cat or a dog, leave them in their temporary space as long as possible (such as a closed off room with access to food, water, and a place for waste). When it’s time for the surprise, you might plan to use a box, but just know that most animals won’t think that it’s such a cute idea. If they seem fine with it, great! Provide plenty of access to air and get them to their new owner ASAP. Ideally, the pet should only need to spend a minute or two in a well-ventilated gift box. If the pet is not going for the box idea, don’t force it. You can simply carry them out and give them, or you can be creative and have the owner find them. Just remember to look out for the pet’s safety and needs.

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