Updated: Jan 3
By Lauren Wang
Image via K9 of Mine
It’s that time of year again, and holiday spirit fills the air. One of my favorite traditions growing up was driving half an hour to San Francisco and celebrating Union Square’s Christmas festivities. I loved ice skating, seeing the massive tree in the center, sipping hot chocolate, and my absolute favorite thing was going to the Macy’s department store to see all the puppies and kittens in the window.
Every year Macy’s partners with the SF SPCA and tries to adopt out puppies and kittens for the holiday season. They also collect donations and spread awareness about the organization and why it’s crucial to adopt shelter animals. Many people worldwide end up adopting animals and giving them as Christmas gifts, but is this innocent gift the best present to give, especially to a child? Here are some reasons why people should rethink the gift of pets this Christmas season.
Lack of Research: Do you have the time to take care of an Animal?
There is a trend of spontaneously adopting a pet, especially towards the holiday season. This can be dangerous. The lack of research in adopting a pet can potentially lead to pets’ mishandling and harming the animal. Some animals have specific diets and routines they need, like bunnies, guinea pigs, birds, and reptiles.
Dogs and cats are not easy pets, and they are an investment. If you aren’t an animal owner or a person who’s had pets in the past, you might not know this. The annual expenses of an animal can cost up to $500 to $1000 depending on the size, weight, breed, and health of the animal. Pet owners have to consider the cost of food, grooming, medical expenses, and other necessities.
Not only is owning a pet costly, but it is a huge time commitment. A pet is another being in the household; this means you need to put in the time and effort to take care of one. For dogs, you need a considerable size yard for them to do their business, or you need to take time out of your day to walk them. Most animals will also need some TLC (tender love, and care) from their human companions. Just like humans, animals can get depressed, too, especially if they get neglected.
It is essential to research before considering a pet for yourself or a loved one to be prepared and evaluate your lifestyle to see if a pet would benefit you. This is not to discourage anyone from getting a pet but to encourage future pet owners to provide a loving, stable home for a pet. Some things you might want to ask yourself before adopting would be; Do I have the income to invest in a pet? Will I be able to invest time and energy to take care of one? Does anyone in my household have allergies to a certain animal? Will I be able to give the best care possible to an animal? How will other animals in the family react to the new animal?
The Outcome of the Holiday Season
Unfortunately, many people don’t do proper research and get animals as gifts because their kid asked or they wanted one. Because they don’t take the time to research, they get hit with the reality that raising an animal is really difficult, costly, and a time commitment. Some people aren’t ready to take care of animals, so they surrender them to a shelter. In a survey that the ASPCA conducted, they found that pets received as gifts were more likely to be given up than kept in the household.
As someone who volunteers at an animal shelter, I have seen this first hand. The animal shelter that I volunteer at is a no-kill shelter, meaning the animals we take aren’t euthanized unless the animal is obviously suffering from pain and the vets can’t do anything about it. However, shelters like mine only have limited space, so we can’t take in every animal.
I specialize in small animals, so rabbits, hamsters, rats, mice, guinea pigs, and occasionally chinchillas. Although small animals aren’t as prevalent during Christmas, like the dogs and cats, we do have a fair share of the chaos in the spring after Easter. People don’t do their research and realize that bunnies aren’t just cute and cuddly and surrender them to the shelter. There have also been many occasions of working with a rabbit that has been emotionally and physically traumatized from their previous environment because of the lack of care and experience. These rabbits are often shy, defensive, meaning they will scratch and bite and are really scared around humans.
Surrendering an animal to a shelter can easily be prevented with the proper research and care of an animal.
Alternative Gift Ideas
Some families and people aren’t ready to take on another responsibility like a pet, which is perfectly ok. If your child or someone in your family is asking for a pet for the holiday season, there are alternative gifts. Depending on the loved one’s age, a great option would be going and volunteering at a local shelter. Volunteering is an excellent option because it gives back to a community, and you can play with the animals without taking on the full responsibility of being a pet owner.
For families with little ones, another great alternative would be stuffed animals and books. Most of the time, little ones just want something to play with and cuddle with. A stuffed animal is a perfect option because that kid can cuddle and play with the stuffed animal without it making a mess or lashing out at the kid. Also, if the kid forgets about the gift, there’s no harm done to any animal, and no one has to suffer the repercussions of neglect. Books about owning a pet or animals, in general, is another excellent option for little kids because it teaches them about specific animals. It can also open up a great conversation about the responsibility of being a pet owner and what that means.
Remember, not getting an animal as a gift isn’t the end of the world. And if you are considering adopting this holiday season or for future holidays, please consider researching that specific animal and adopt from shelters because millions of animals are looking for loving homes.
Written by Lauren Wang