Pets as Presents – can it work?

Karen Peak

There has been a lot written about why not to give pets as presents. However, if certain, strict criteria is met, there is a possibility the gift can work.

close up photography of white cat besides christmas lights

Photo by Eftodii Aurelia on

Unless, after a lot of research and willingness to commit to the life of the pet, you are bringing a pet into your family, never surprise the recipient. Surprising your spouse with a pet the two of are ready for is much different from surprising your parents who may not want a pet. Even if the person talks about getting a pet, NEVER surprise him! The choice of a pet is personal. Therefore, open a serious line of dialogue. Never assume the person will want that pet at that moment (or at all), can afford the pet, or shares your taste in pets.

Depending on the species, a pet can add hundreds to thousands of dollars in annual expenses. If there is an emergency or chronic medical issue, the costs can be greater. Your cousin may appear to live a caviar life but in reality has a McDonald’s budget (and a lot of debt).

What will happen if the pet is refused or in the future, the recipient cannot keep the critter? The life you give is ultimately your responsibility. Are you able to take the pet at any time and any age if it does not work out? If you cannot do this, do not gift the pet.

If the recipient gives the “go-ahead,” it is your responsibility to obtain the desired pet from the desired source. If the recipient wants a kitten from the local shelter and you give her a parrot, she will not be happy. If the recipient is waiting for a Maltese from a great breeder and you decide to get her a big, active hound from the city shelter, she will not be happy.  Can your Great Aunt Edna truly handle that German Shepherd puppy?  What about when the puppy becomes a large adolescent?

Timing has to be right. You may not know your cousin’s job is sending her to Asia for six months or your grandparents have signed a lease for a retirement home where no pets are allowed. The gift of an animal will last anywhere from a few years to several plus decades depending on the species. You need to think past the initial shock and glee and to months and years ahead.

Finally check zoning and leases. You may love tea cup pigs but they could be considered livestock where your aunt lives. Though she may love the piglet, your aunt may be legally forced to give the oinker up. You may give your brother a Great Dane pup but not realize his lease says no pets over 35lbs.

Pets are a personal choice. Many gifted animals are given up shortly after the holidays because they cost too much, the time is not there to give the needed care or the pet was simply not wanted.

A better idea: wait until the recipients have obtained pets on their own and then give gift cards to local stores, needed supplies or find out what vet will be used and ask to have money put on the owner’s account to cover various medical bills.

Karen Peak is the developer of The Safe Kids/Safe Dogs Project, owner/operator of West Wind Dog Training in Prince William County and is working on her second book.

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