With Christmas Day inching closer and closer, families across the UK and Ireland are readying their presents and planning surprises that will brighten the lives of their loved ones. In their search for the ultimate gift, some of these families will make the choice to get a pet.
The thinking being, what’s more heart-warming than the joy of finding a puppy, kitten, bunny or rabbit, in a loose-lidded box by the Christmas tree to make the perfect Christmas morning.
But what happens after all is said and done, when Christmas has passed, New Year’s Day has come and gone, and these pets are still in need of care?
Christmas Pet Purchases Lead To Higher Abandonment
When pets are purchased without the proper thought, preparation, or intention for a long-term commitment, they suffer. Greater numbers of pet purchases at Christmas invariably lead to higher rates of abandonment down the line.
In the 3 months after Christmas 2020, Dogs Trust had 172 requests to surrender animals in Ireland alone.
Many of these pet owners said that they wanted to find a new home for their dog because they no longer had the time to properly care for the animal themselves, a devastating event that could have been avoided with more thoughtful planning.
What To Consider Before Getting A Pet At Christmas
Here are a few considerations to keep in mind before making the ultimate commitment to get a pet for Christmas.
The Lifespan of Cats and Dogs
While the lifespan of cats and dogs varies depending on breed, pet owners can expect their dogs to be with them for 10-12 years and their cats to live for 10-14 years, on average. However, many animals live for even longer, with some cats living for over 30 years.
Future pet owners would also do well to consider that, the older their pets get, the more likely it is that they will need specialised care to treat common conditions such as arthritis and cancer.
Unlike other Christmas presents which will eventually lose their charm, pets are more than a fad—they’re a lifelong family addition.
Budgeting To Be A Pet Owner
Additionally, taking proper care of a pet is a more expensive business than one might expect. For example, pet owners should realistically consider expenses such as the following before purchasing a cat or dog:
- Adoption fees
- Food (a well-balanced diet from kibble to treats)
- Vaccinations and veterinary care
- Additional travel fees
- Training classes
- Microchipping and lost pet services
- Pet entertainment
While some of these expenses may only be a one-time fee, most are recurring costs that will require continued budgeting and commitment.
Anyone who is uncertain about whether or not they will be able to cover these costs year-round would be much better off to search for Christmas gift alternatives.
Considering Lifestyle Adjustments
It’s not uncommon to leave Christmas shopping until the last minute. After all, it’s a busy time of year! However, ample amounts of preparation and careful assessment are needed before making the commitment to adding a new member to the family.
Pets should be thoroughly researched before adoption in order to ensure that they will make good mates for children and elderly members of the home. Plus, homes themselves must be carefully pet-proofed to create the safest possible environment for a cat or dog.
Families who are considering the adoption of a new best friend should consider the necessary lifestyle adjustments required to meet the demands of their future pets. These will include:
- Maintaining plenty of indoor space for play
- Dedicating time to training
- Daily pet exercise (including walks)
- Routine veterinary check-ups
- Cleaning and hygiene
Pets rely on their family for their health and their happiness. Does your lifestyle, and your family’s, have space to accommodate this responsibility?
Adopting vs Buying
For those that do decide to get a pet this Christmas, we urge you to check your local shelters. Check with Dog’s Trust and your local Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and other animal welfare charities.
Buying pets privately can help to support terrible puppy-farm conditions and cause the suffering of pets of all kinds. Adopting a pet can rescue them from a history of suffering, loneliness and worse and give them the love, warmth and comfort that every pet deserves.
Remember, pets are for life, not for Christmas; a cat, dog, rabbit, guinea pig or hamster may seem like a great gift, but not without plenty of planning, commitment, and an open heart ready for long-term love and adoration.
Make the right choice this Christmas.