Why You Shouldn’t Give Pets as Gifts at Christmas

The information in this article was reviewed and approved by registered veterinary nurse, Beth Walker

Animed Veterinary Nurse, Beth Walker

We’re sure you’re familiar with the phrase, ‘A dog is for life, not just for Christmas.’ Coined by Dogs Trust over 40 years ago, this well-known mantra is applicable to all other pets too. Giving pets as gifts is never a good idea. Cats and dogs are huge commitments, requiring a lot of forethought and planning. They are an additional expense requiring lots of upkeep financially, and of course, they require a lot of your time. Unfortunately, thousands of pets are abandoned each year, particularly in the months after Christmas.

Is it Ok to Give a Pet as a Gift?

While it may seem like a great idea to give a pet as a gift to someone who loves animals, there are lots of reasons why this is not the case.

Giving a pet as a gift means that the recipient won’t have had a chance to consider whether they can make the long-term commitment of caring for them. This may mean that they are not able to offer the cat or dog the life they deserve, or result in yet another animal going to a rescue shelter.

Abandoned Dogs And Cats are on the Rise

Research has shown that there are a growing number of dogs and cats being abandoned by their owners. Some of these make it to rescue centres while others are taken in by local authorities.

According to UK Parliament, an estimated 250,000 animals go to rescue shelters every year.

In the UK, between January and July in 2022 alone, the RSPCA responded to 22,908 abandoned animals. This is a 25% increase on the same period from the previous year.

Dogs are the most commonly abandoned animal.

Why You Shouldn’t Give Pets as Gifts at Christmas

They’re expensive to look after

One of the most common reasons why cats and dogs are abandoned is because owners cannot afford to care for them. The Battersea Dogs Home estimated last year that keeping a dog costs £2000 a year on average.

Gifting a pet to somebody can end up becoming a financial burden. As well as food and bedding for example, pets require regular flea treatments, worming treatments and vaccinations, which all add up. Plus, there may be unexpected costs like emergency vet bills if the cat or dog becomes unwell at any point.

If the recipient is not prepared for the costs that come with owning a dog or cat, they may have no choice but to take them to a shelter. It’s not a nice decision to have to make, so we would never recommend gifting a pet.

They need a lot of your time

Pets need to be kept active and stimulated, requiring a lot of your time. Dogs need plenty of walks and playtime, and cats can also become anxious if they do not get to spend enough time with their owner. While many owners treasure the time spent with their pets, not everyone has the time to spare, especially if they have busy jobs for example. You may not know the ins and outs of someone else’s schedule well enough to know if they have the time to take care of a pet given as a gift.

They need to be properly planned for

The decision to have a pet should not be taken lightly, and lots of planning should take place beforehand. This way, you’ll be prepared for the necessary training and costs. You can also take the time to choose a breed that suits you, so that they fit in with your family and lifestyle. Gifting a pet to someone means they will not have had a chance to do this planning and preparation.

What to do When Your Child Asks for a Pet for Christmas

If your child asks for a pet, make sure you have taken plenty of time to consider all the points we’ve raised above before agreeing. If you do decide that you would be able to offer a good home to a cat or dog, we still wouldn’t recommend giving a pet as a Christmas gift.

Giving animals as gifts can promote the idea that they are a possession rather than a responsibility. A lot of Christmas gifts are forgotten by the new year once the novelty has worn off – don’t let this be the case with a pet.

Additionally, bringing a pet home is a big deal, and the Christmas period can often be very busy. If you’ve made the decision to get a cat or dog, it’s a good idea to wait until the new year to bring them home so that you can give them your full attention as they settle in.

Instead of giving a cat or dog as a gift for Christmas, celebrate the fact that you’ll soon be joined by a furry family member. You could consider wrapping up some of the items you’ll need to help look after the pet, such as a lead, food bowl or bed, and give these as gifts on Christmas Day.

Wrapping up: Pets as Gifts

A pet should be seen as a long-term commitment. The average life expectancy of a dog is around 12 years, and some cats have been known to live for 20 years or more. It’s a huge, often life-changing decision to get a pet, and not a decision that can be made by someone else. Therefore, pets are not good Christmas gifts. There are plenty of other great gifts you can give to the animal lovers in your life – for example, why not sponsor a guide dog on their behalf, or book them an animal experience day?