You may not know that giving a pet as a gift is a hot topic of debate in the animal sheltering and rescue community! Some folks feel very strongly that pets should never be given as gifts in any circumstance, while others think giving pets as gifts is great no matter what… and then there a lot of us who fall somewhere in between.  If you are thinking about giving someone a pet as a gift this holiday season or any time, there are three questions you can ask yourself  and the gift recipient to make your gift giving a great experience for everyone involved – including the gifted pet!

1. Is the recipient ready for a life-long commitment to that pet?

Dogs live anywhere from 10 to 18 years (smaller breeds generally live longer, cats live 20 years or more, rabbits live up to 12 years, and horses can live to be 40 years old sometimes! That is many, many years of providing food, vet care, exercise, and love. It’s a huge responsibility, both emotionally and financially. If your recipient’s future situation is uncertain, they may prefer an older adult or senior pet, who still has lots of love to give, but won’t require such a long commitment. Older adult and senior pets also often come fully trained, and require less exercise! They may require more vet care, so you might want to include pet health insurance with the gift of an older pet too.

2. Surprise gifts?

Giving a pet as a surprise gift may sound like fun – but getting to be involved with picking out a pet is equally if not more fun, and the match has a better chance of being a happier one! You can give a “surprise” gift by wrapping a stuffed animal or pet adoption gift certificate in a huge box, and then making part of the gift going to the shelter or a rescue to meet with potential adoptees, to pick one out together. Pets that are adopted, then returned, are more likely to become depressed and then sick (especially if they are returned to a kennel shelter), or may develop separation anxiety, or withdraw. Pets are not meant to be returned or exchanged like an ill-fitting sweater.

3. Do they really want a pet right now?

Your mom or boyfriend may love pets, and say things like they wish they could have a dog/cat/rabbit/horse/etc, but the gap between a wish and reality can be a big one. Before you decide on gifting a pet, you can ask questions like, “Why haven’t you gotten a dog yet?” and listen to see if the answers include reasons like not enough time, not enough extra money, not enough space, landlord rules, etc.

Of course, getting a new pet has many more considerations than just those three! Here are some more tips for giving gift pets to children and timing your gift right. We hope you’ll use that article and these three tips above as a starting point for you and your gift recipient, so together you’ll make the best choice for everyone.

Happy holidays and gifting!