By Maria Russell
With the holidays being just a few short months away, some well-meaning individuals may be contemplating giving their child, spouse, or significant other a puppy or a kitten as a present. While movies and television make the gesture seem heartwarming, it is a decision that will have consequences long after the festivities end and the decorations have been put away. Pets can be a wonderful addition to a household, provided that potential owners have taken the time to do their homework prior to bringing Fido or Kitty home, realizing that a commitment of possibly 15 years or more is being made.
Pets are not like toys that can be stored in a closet or down in the basement when the novelty has worn off. In fact, pets are not playthings at all; they are living beings that require daily care, substantial amounts of time and a lot of attention. Anyone thinking about getting a pet should consider their own lifestyle, schedule and energy level, not to mention financial capability.
The decision to get a pet should be made rationally and involve the entire family. Everyone’s input is important, and everyone needs to be on board if a new pet is coming home. Who is going to be primarily responsible for feeding the pet, taking it for walks and cleaning up after it? Children and teenagers with the best of intention eventually return to their own interests after the newness of having a pet has worn off. Annual expenses should also be realistically considered; pet food and treats, vet bills, grooming, chew toys, miscellaneous items such as monthly heart worm and flea protection, shampoo, bedding, bowls, brushes, collars, leashes and occasional pet sitters or kennels can easily run into the hundreds or even thousands of dollars.
Even if the entire family agrees on getting a pet, the holidays are not a good time to introduce an animal into a new home. The first few days with his new family are an important bonding time for the pet, and since the family members will likely be busy with all of the activities that accompany the holidays, Fido or Kitty may not get the attention he or she needs. Also, the excitement that comes with entertaining guests, gift unwrapping, noisy toys and the like may be terrifying and stressful for any animal, especially a young one that may have just left his mother and litter mates.
Additionally, the holiday season presents potential safety hazards to pets in the form of seemingly harmless items, such as ribbon, candles, tinsel, tree needles and strings of lights, all of which can cause choking or gastrointestinal blockages. Holiday plants, such as poinsettias, mistletoe, holly, amaryllis and hibiscus can cause upset stomach, vomiting and diarrhea if consumed by pets.
It would be better to introduce a pet to the family at a time that is more relaxed than the holiday season, so that the new owners can devote more attention to helping the pet adjust. Regardless of its breed, the first year with any new pet puts more demands on the owner than any other time because house rules and routines are being put in place. In the meantime, consider gifts such as books, magazines and videos about pets. These alternatives are not only much safer, but can be integral in establishing an excellent foundation for welcoming a new, furry member to the family…when the time is right.
By Maria Russell