The Risk of Buying a Pet as a Christmas Gift - merge2gether Offers a List to Check Twice

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For over 40% of American families, the addition of a cat or dog helps to make the family picture complete. With the holiday shopping in full swing, pet stores understand this picture of the "perfect" American family and market the idea of a puppy or kitten with a big red bow around its neck sitting under the tree Christmas morning.

Moving, living together.

Bringing together, people, places and things.

As a an animal shelter volunteer, I see too often giving a pet as a gift does not work out as planned.

The Picture Perfect Present
People love animals. About 40% of Americans have a dog or a cat. What could be better than to give into the pleading and begging of children who want a puppy or a kitten? The delight in giving and receiving such a gift, does not always last as long as needed to have a health and happy pet.

Small Pet, Big Responsibility
Adding a pet to the family is a big responsibility. Animal shelter staff and veterinarians alike strongly advise against giving a pet as a gift, whether for Christmas or otherwise. Here is a short list of why buying a pet as a Christmas present is not a good idea.

The Cost, in Money
Although the picture of a puppy or a kitten under the tree is adorable, people need to think long term. Having a pet is expensive. There are years of food, medical and equipment costs that often grow along with the animal.

The Costs, in Time
Animals, big and small, take time and attention, some more than others. Young pets, especially puppies, require time and patience to train. A lack of time invested at the beginning of the pet's life can lead to an unruly pet later. In addition, insufficient time spent with an older pet can result in a lonely and under-exercised animal. With some breeds, an under-stimulated dog may become unruly making it stressful for the pet and family.

When Things Don’t Work Out
Unfortunately, shelters and breed-specific rescue organizations often receive animals that take more time and energy than the owner anticipated. When parents buy a dog for their children, most of the time the day-to-day work ends up falling on the adult. Overwhelmed with the responsibility, owners often return the pet or surrender it to a shelter. Nobody wins in this scenario.

Bonding from the Start
For people who really do have time for a pet, they should be involved in choosing their pet. Most people select a pet because of some special connection or attraction they feel as they are looking for one. Bonding with the animal right from the start at the shelter, kennel or a pet store is a critical time in the relationship.

The Perfect Gift
A better gift for a future pet owner is a pet store gift certificate, a leash and collar or a bowl and bed; the owner will need these things after s/he is ready and have chosen the perfect pet for them.

Getting a pet for the family is a great moment, but it has to be a family affair and should be discussed beforehand. Use the holidays not to adopt a pet, but to start looking with the understanding that finding the perfect match likely will take time and may not happen in one day.

For more information about moving in and living together whether with people or pets, go to

About merge2gether ( Founded in 2011, merge2gether is headquartered in Oakland, California. is an online community offering resources to guide people as they think and talk through the process of moving in with another person. merge2gether provides free information, questions-and-answers and ideas to people of all ages and at all stages of life.

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Beverly Aabjerg
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