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Pets as Christmas Gifts

Is this a Christmas gift?
Is this a Christmas gift?

I saw a Facebook post that had two pictures.  One was of a cute puppy and had the caption, “his first Christmas”.  The other picture, titled “his second Christmas’, shows the now-grown dog in a shelter kennel.  Unfortunately, that scenario is all too common.  It seems like a great idea to get a new pet at Christmas.  What folks often forget is that unlike a toy that you may put aside after a few weeks or months, an animal is a living, breathing creature with needs and feelings.

     Shelter workers hear a lot of reasons why folks are getting rid of a pet, but it seems there may be a misunderstanding about the responsibility that comes with having a pet.  That includes feeding, cleaning up after it, training.

     Very few animals are great pets naturally.  It usually takes interaction with human family members and some training before the pet learns what is expected and how it should behave.  The truth is that great pets are rarely born that way; they are made great pets by their humans who let them know where their boundaries are and help them understand the benefit of a loving relationship with their people. 

     So back to the Christmas pet.  Holidays are often a hectic time, with a lot of distractions and special schedules, without much routine.  There are other ways to give a pet for Christmas.

     One would be to wrap up a stuffed toy dog or cat.  You can include things like a collar or harness and a leash, a carrier, a feeding dish, and even a litter box for a cat.  Then make plans to go with your friend or relative, or your child, to pick out a pet at the shelter.  That way your friend, or your child, is part of choosing his or her new - and hopefully longtime - friend. 

     Dogs and cats are more than just Christmas gifts.  They are companions that can add so much to our lives, and make every day feel a little bit like Christmas, when we’re speaking of pets.


Mindy Norton has been “Speaking of Pets” on Alabama Public Radio since 1995.