As you watch your grandchildren run downstairs, eagerly shouting at the sight of an adorable fluffy puppy adorned with a big red bow under the tree, you probably deserve the daggers you are getting from the children’s parents. Although your heart is in the right place in gifting a lovable pet to your grandchildren, your own child and his or her spouse may not agree.

Why pets do not make good holiday gifts

Besides the difference in opinion between the giver and the receiver, pets do not make good holiday gifts for several reasons, including the following:

  • Time restraints — Pets require a lot of work and a large time commitment, and your gift recipient may not be prepared for that. Your gift may be viewed as a burden, rather than a memorable and thoughtful gift.

  • Budget restraints — Caring for a pet is a significant financial responsibility, which may not be in your gift recipient’s budget. An unexpected new pet can strain an already stretched budget, leading to resentment instead of love and joy.

  • Failure to ask permission — Giving a pet to a child without checking with the parents is usually frowned upon. Although a puppy or a kitten tops many children’s wish lists, always get permission from the parents if you’d like to give a pet as a gift. All too often, a child receives a pet as a gift, but then loses interest, which places the burden of caring for the new pet on the parents.

  • Holidays are too hectic — Although gifting a pet for any occasion is not a good idea, it’s worse timing during the holiday season. With Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve festivities filling people’s calendars, it’s a hectic time of year. Schedules are non-existent, which is not an ideal environment for welcoming a new pet. With the chaos and limited time of the holiday season, adding the responsibility of caring for a new pet only increases stress. 

What to ask before gifting a pet

Before thinking about giving a pet as a gift, consider the following questions:

  • Does the family want a new pet? While they may have expressed interest in getting a new pet, that does not necessarily mean right now. A pet is a big responsibility, both in terms of finances and time, and not everyone who expresses interest in a pet is ready to commit.

  • Does the family have adequate space and resources for a new pet? If you are thinking of giving an Irish wolfhound to a family living in a small apartment, for example, we recommend that you reconsider and search for more compatible options. For non-furry pets, such as reptiles, fish, or birds, consider the space and habitat requirements. Is the family willing and able to get a large tank or cage, along with heat and light sources, for their new pet?

  • Does the family have ample time for a new pet? A new pet, especially a puppy or kitten, requires extra attention to help her settle into the household. Potty training, obedience training, grooming, socializing, puppy or kitten classes, and veterinary visits take up a large chunk of time, along with the constant supervision teething pets require.

  • Is the family willing to commit to a pet for her entire lifetime? If you give a puppy or kitten as a gift, consider how many years that family must commit to her care. Can you ensure they are willing to provide a lifetime of care for a new pet?

Alternatives to giving a pet as a gift

Although the thought of adorning an adorable puppy or kitten with a big bow is heartwarming, gifting a living, breathing animal to another person is not a good idea. If you’d like to keep your present pet-friendly, stick with inanimate gifts, such as:

  • Gift cards to pet supply stores
  • An offer to visit animal shelters and help pick out the new pet
  • A subscription to a monthly feline or canine goodie box
  • Pet supplies, such as a bed, toys, treats, dishes, collar, and leash
  • A book about cat or dog ownership
  • An offer to pet-sit once the new pet arrives

Is your friend or family member planning on getting a new pet soon? Instead of giving a pet as a gift, give the gift of health by scheduling a wellness visit for your friend’s new furry companion.