The Problems with Presenting Animals as Gifts

guinea pig in bow

The holidays have creepily snuck up on us again. If you happen to be the type who keeps a gift journal and does all of your shopping in August so you never have to scramble, well then…congratulations.

The majority of us, though, are googling “great gift ideas for 9-year-old step-nieces” late at night as we pay for overnight shipping to get all the gifts in time so no one knows that we are ill-prepared.

So what are you getting for your friends and family? Dog-shaped soap dish? Santa Cat bow tie? These are great options, and we’d be happy to offer more suggestions whenever you wish. The point of this post, however, is what not to get for gifts, and that is: any type of pet.

How tempting it is to give your new girlfriend an adorable little kitten named Rudolph and wrapped in bows! Or to present a little puppy wrapped in an American flag for your elderly next-door neighbor who seems lonely!

But here are the problems with such gifts.

  1. Even though you love animals, not everyone else does.
  1. And even those who love animals do not always know how to take care of them.
  1. And even those who can take care of them cannot always afford to take care of them.
  1. And even those who can afford to take care of them may not want to take care of them.
  1. Despite how much you think that black cats are the best, your new boyfriend might actually ONLY like tabbies, and he might think that black cats are dumb. (Note: Clearly the boyfriend is not a keeper.)
  1. It’s not always the right time to have a new pet. Planning a trip? Having health issues? Bad semester at school? Planning on moving? Any of these things and more could mean the recipient of this living gift won’t be able to invest the time and emotion needed to bond with a new loved one.

The bottom line is that the majority of animals-as-gifts end up being not cared for or being given up at shelters. Everyone who has ever worked a shelter anticipates the onslaught of Christmas kittens and puppies that get dropped off in late January.

Granted, the alternatives to a puppy stuffed in a stocking are not quite as adorable, but there are plenty to consider:

  1. Give a gift certificate for an animal that you and Mr. Black Cat Hater can find together at your local shelter.
  1. Give an animal-related gift instead (see killer ideas above).
  1. Anything else.

So enjoy your holidays, have a happy new year, and be safe!

Dr. Brett Grossman
Dr. Drew Sullivan
Medical District Veterinary Clinic at Illinois