Fluffy Golden Retriever puppies in red gift bows on Christmas morning! Who ever came up with that as an image of a happy American family icon we think probably never had a puppy eat a bunch of wrapping paper and spent the rest of the day at the emergency vet! My personal early childhood trauma aside, parents and loved ones still do love the idea of giving pets as gifts for Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or Christmas. Do puppies, kittens, cats, dogs, rabbits, or other pets make good gifts? Are the holidays a good time to give or get a pet as a gift? Do animal shelters and rescues encourage or even allow families and friends to adopt a pet to give as a gift? Read on to find out our answers to these questions and more!

Do pets make good gifts?

The question if pets make good gifts is a complex one, and we don’t have a simple yes or no answer. Some shelters and rescues don’t allow people to adopt pets to give away as a gift, unless they are gifting to someone within their household, like a parent for their child, with the parent remaining the actual owner and responsible for the pet’s care. Some shelters do not have restrictions at all on the “transfer of ownership” once a pet is adopted, so it is up to the adopter to make the best decision for the pet… and for the person to whom they are gifting the pet!

Here are some tips if you are thinking about adopting a pet to give as a gift.

  • Picking the Perfect Pet: If you are giving a pet as a gift to someone in your household, make sure the recipient has said they are ready to make a life-long commitment to the type of pet you want to gift to them. Not that you just *think* they want a pet. We REALLY highly recommend instead of gifting the actual pet, gifting the “adoption” of a pet — and letting the recipient participate in the selection process of the actual pet. You may find that bouncing Labrador adolescent adorable, but your mom may see a huge time and exercise commitment (not to mention a serious shoe-destruction risk) and really want to adopt a calmer likely-past-the-worst-chewing-stage adult dog… or cat!
  • How to Give a Gift-Wrapped Pet: We’ve seen smart shelters offer Pet Adoption Gift Certificates, which the gifter can wrap in a box with a stuffed animal pet to put under the tree with a card offering to go with them to the shelter or rescue to pick out a pet to adopt – now that’s a great gift idea!
  • Gifting pets to children: Parents or other relatives should know that children or teenagers may promise they will be fully responsible for the pet’s care, but may not realize the time and effort involved. Gift-givers should discuss and make sure there is a resident adult willing to take full responsibility for the pet getting the exercise, training, feeding, and vet care the pet needs – for the pet’s entire life.
  • Timing is everything: Holidays are often chaotic, with friends and family visiting, travel, unusual work schedules. If this sounds like the home where you are gifting the pet, we suggest waiting until the pet’s new home calms down first, so will have the time to give a new pet the attention and regular routine new pets need to settle in to a new home. Perhaps give pet supplies as the holiday day gifts — like a new leash and collar, a pet bed, or lots of pet toys – and let the gift recipient know that your gift includes the adoption fee for the pet of their choice AFTER the holiday frenzy has passed.

We hope you find these tips for giving pets as gifts helpful. Happy Pawlidays!

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