Christmas and the holidays are coming and what better gift than a puppy or a kitten.
Nothing matches the reaction of a child who longed for a puppy or a kitten and is given one. There are many videos of the joy, tears, and excitement available on the internet. But…
Let’s talk about when to give a child a pet. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to giving my own daughters a Christmas of pets. My kids were twelve, eleven, and almost four. Our Great Dane and seventeen-year-old kitty had died shortly before the holidays. Heartbroken and inundated with requests for replacements, we agreed to give pets for Christmas.
Our oldest received puppy chow under the Christmas tree. The other two, cat toys. Their excitement on Christmas morning was worth it and we scheduled a visit to the Wisconsin Humane Society.
It was an exciting day and each girl got her wish. The youngest chose the oldest cat in the shelter. Maggie was 14 years old and had been surrendered when her owner went into hospice. The second chose Leah, a year old gray and white kitty. And the oldest named her terrier mix puppy Tinkerbell. To a child, they all learned about their own limits as pet owners.
From changing kitty litter to taking the puppy out at all hours of the day and night, they learned that pets are easier when they were “mom and dad’s.” If the girls had a school event, they learned to arrange for their pet care with someone else in the family.
So, what is my point? Am I saying get a puppy for Christmas or don’t get a puppy for Christmas? I am saying both.
My husband and I have always had pets: dogs, cats, reptiles, rabbits, birds. Our children didn’t know a time without pets. We know how to acclimate pets into a rowdy family. We know the expense of veterinary bills, food, and accessories. We know the importance of training. We know that a pet is forever and on their last day, confused, old, and in pain, that we will hold them and tell them what a good boy or girl they had been. We will tell them we love them and it is okay to go. We will be their forever home. If we could not commit to this, we would have chosen other gifts.
So, before getting a Christmas puppy or kitten, ask yourself:
- does everyone want a pet
- do we have space for a pet
- what are our limitations in renting or owning
- how many hours a day will our pet be alone
- can we train a pet or have the money to pay for it
- do we know the costs of a pet
- will we spay or neuter
- can we afford medical care
- can we tolerate potty training accidents
- are we patient with mistakes
- does anyone have allergies
- can we make a 10-20 year commitment
Research a pet before buying or rescuing. Different breeds have specific traits. The husky population in shelters skyrocketed after Game of Thrones. Huskies are beautiful but high energy dogs. It was such a problem that the actors began doing PSAs against getting huskies because so many ended up abandoned.
When considering all these factors, maybe the answer is not no, but the answer is not now.
We had no unrealistic expectations that a pet would suddenly teach our children to be more responsible. We knew we would do the majority of the pet care. We knew how to do the pet care. And we knew we would be a forever home.
Maggie lived eighteen years and died happy, loved, and in the arms of my youngest. Our oldest came home from college to be with Tinkerbell when she passed in 2012. Sixteen-year-old Leah is sitting next to me as I write, still here because moving across country with our middle would be too traumatic now and because forever means forever.