Christmas is only a few days away and shoppers are frantically grabbing those last few gifts. As they dash around the shopping mall, an adorable little puppy stands up on his rear legs and puts a paw to the glass viewing box he’s contained in. A few metres away, some fluffy ragdoll kittens are sleeping with their naughty brother jumping over the heads. Next minute, you’re leaving the store with one of these gorgeous animals in a box. You know your best friend/cousin/sister/uncle/mum is going to LOVE this present… Or not.
Buying pets as Christmas presents can be so incredibly dangerous and people need to stop doing it on impulse. The sad reality is, many of the dogs and cats that are given as Christmas gifts can end up either at the pound or the RSPCA. Not necessarily because the person they were gifted to hates animals or doesn’t like this particular animal (though, it can happen), but because they’ve realised a few weeks or months down the track that they don’t have the time or ability to give the pets the care and attention they need. Pets are a lifetime commitment and this commitment should never be made on behalf of someone else.
The RSPCA have said they notice a particular increase in adoptions around this time of year and that they believe this is because people are on leave from work, kids are out of school etc so it’s a good time to bond with a new pet. They always stress the importance of adopting for the long term and not the short term, keeping in mind things like the longevity of life of a pet, whether their lifestyle is appropriate for the type of pet they want to adopt and whether their lifestyle will be appropriate for the rest of the pet’s life, as well as the importance of training your pet, providing an enriched environment for your four-legged friend.
Breeds like Siberian Huskies, Golden Retrievers, and Border Collies are sometimes purchased because they’re adorable as puppies without the buyer realising how big and boisterous they grow, not to mention the exercise they need. If they’re not exercised, they get bored, become destructive and the owners take the poor thing to the pound because they can’t handle the holes in the backyard or the ruined shoes.
If I had it my way (which I unfortunately don’t), there would be legislation in place to prevent the sale of pets in the week before and after Christmas. I know that if someone really wanted a pet on Christmas Day they would still be able to get their hands on one through dodgy backyard breeders or ‘free to good home’ advertisements (note: if your animal is free to a good home, for the love of God please take it to a shelter where they will find it a genuinely good home as opposed to someone getting a pet on impulse just because it’s free), but having these sorts of rules would significantly lower the numbers of pets bought as Christmas gifts.
If you absolutely must get a pet as a Christmas gift for someone, I suggest speaking to the recipient first about it. I know it ‘ruins the surprise’ but ruining a surprise rather than potentially ruining a life is a much better option option. If you go ahead with a pet purchase for your own family, keep a few things in mind:
- Adopt don’t shop. The kittens and puppies in pet stores are often the product of puppy farms and backyard breeders. There are so many beautiful animals waiting for their forever home at shelters, the pound, and the RSPCA. Even if you’re after a particular breed, with enough patience you’ll come across one. Flossie’s Kitten Rescue in Canberra recently had beautiful ragdoll kittens for adoption!
- Know your breeds. As mentioned, cute puppies are bought because they’re cute without the buyer realising the time and dedication the puppy will need when it’s a fully grown pooch.
- Look at your home and your backyard. Is it suitable for a dog or a cat? Do you have any other pets, will these pets get along?
- Assess your lifestyle. Pets can be expensive. Can you afford food, toys, visits to the vet, grooming costs, litter trays etc? Do you work long hours? Maybe an active dog isn’t for you. Are you planning on moving house in the near future? Maybe that kitten can wait another 12 months until you’re settled into your new abode.
- And finally, if you do bring home a pet – at Christmas or any other time of year – remember to have he or she desexed, vaccinated and microchipped.