A pet makes a wonderful addition to any family, so naturally when Christmas rolls around it’s easy to daydream about surprising your family with an adorable puppy or kitten wrapped up with a red bow.
Though it’s a beautiful image, giving a pet as a Christmas present is not an ideal scenario. The decision to add a pet to your family should always take careful consideration and planning.
The first thing you want to ask yourself is: Are you sure everyone is committed to the new pet? Surprising your family is fun, as long as you are sure that everyone wants a new pet. Caring for a new pet requires time commitments, could have financial implications, and the whole family needs to be dedicated to properly training and socializing any new additions. Mom and Dad should definitely be in agreement about adding to the family, but you should have a conversation with the kids to make sure they understand that a pet is big commitment, and needs continuous care and attention. Start talking early on about what jobs the kids would be responsible for. If this is your first pet, it’s worth making sure that no one in the family has a pet-related allergy.
If you are sure everyone is on board, considering surprising your family with the promise of a pet. Fill a box with bowls, toys, even a collar. Include a book or magazine with breed profiles and a certificate that proudly declares that a new pet will be joining the family. This becomes a great project you can challenge older kids to help pick out a pet that fits your family’s lifestyle in terms of size, temperament, coat type, activity level and how they would fit in with any existing pets. If you are planning on adopting a pet, check out petfinder.com to view profiles of adoptable pets, or ask your local Pet Valu to recommend a local rescue. Responsible rescues, shelters and breeders will want to interview you first and may even want to inspect your house, so keep in mind that the process of getting your new pet can take several weeks.
When your new pet does come home, it’s important to set up a routine and keep things relatively calm – neither of which are top-of-mind when it comes to the holidays! If you’ve already done your due diligence and are planning to bring your new pet home on or around Christmas, make sure that your decorations are puppy or kitten proofed. Odds are your new pet is not fully vaccinated, so avoid taking him places that a lot of other dogs or cats visit. House training and litter training should start right away, so recruit your whole family to help. Finally, it’s important to remember that even though the new puppy or kitten is very excited to be the newest member of the family, he needs some quiet time too. Make sure your new pet has an area (such as a crate for a puppy or a pyramid for a kitten) where he can go and not be disturbed.