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  • Adri Sandoval

4 Reasons You Shouldn't Give Pets as Gifts

You ever see those super cute videos of people surprising someone with a puppy and that person bursts into tears and just falls in love with it? Yeah. I love those videos too. But what they don't show you is everything that comes after. These moments are super precious, but they're just moments. Animals don't just POOF! and disappear once it's over - there's a lifetime of obligation that comes after.

Every year, shelters see adoptions pick up before the holidays, and then a super disappointing period after where several pets are returned. Why? Because pets should not be gifts. If you're still considering putting a bow on an animal and popping it into a box for a loved one, here are five reasons you shouldn't give pets as gifts.

1. Pets come with a lot of responsibility.

Pets are wonderful. There are a lot of benefits to pet ownership (explained by this fantastic former writer at iHeartDogs.) However, they also require a lot of responsibility that can eat away at your time. I love our pets, but there are a lot of moments taking care of them that I don't love. Wrestling my dog to brush her teeth. Wrapping a pill in cheese just to have her spit it out and then having to wrestle her more - and for a lazy 15 lb. ball of fluff, she puts up a pretty good fight. The cats tear up furniture, keep us up yowling at night, and require that their litter box be scooped. And if we don't clean it often? They'll find other places to go - or the dog will take snacks from the box and eat them in our bed. I have a long list of things I don't love about having pets, even though I love these animals very much.

When you gift a pet, you're gifting a whole bunch of inconvenience and responsibility in a beautiful, furry little package wrapped up in a bow. You're not often thinking about the walking and the feeding and the illness and the scooping and the clawing when you gift these animals, but that's what your friend or relative is getting. If it's not something they've chosen to opt into themselves, they probably won't appreciate the sudden surprise of all these obligations. Depending on the pet and the level of care they can give, these obligations could last for decades.

2. Pets can be expensive.

Pet ownership is pricey. To live a long, healthy life, pets require regular medical care. This includes vaccinations, checkups, tooth cleanings, and more. Should your friend's new pet become sick or get injured, emergency vet visits can easily cost thousands of dollars. These are JUST medical costs.

Other costs associated with pet ownership include food, toys, beds, litter, leashes, bowls, etc. Rover estimates that the cost of just getting set up for a new pet can be anywhere between $1,135 and $5,155 - and that's just the first year. You might think you can get away with not buying something like toys - but you'll quickly find out that a puppy can and will make a toy of anything. Same for cats looking for something to dig their claws into - toys and scratchers are a necessity. Not having must-have items can make a miserable life for a pet, and in turn, for the person who is supposed to care for them.

3. Choosing the right pet is important.

A lot of people will tell you that their pet chose them - or that they just knew when they saw this pet that it was meant to be theirs. That feeling is real and it's magical. I remember once I was at the shelter "just to look" and found this adorable little heartworm-positive Corgi with super bad gas and dandruff and knew it was meant to be.

It's about more than just that moment, though. It's important that our pets fit our lifestyle, or it's not going to be a pleasant experience for anyone. Imagine trying to fit a super-active dog, like a Husky, into your life if you prefer to spend your time on the couch. Or having a cat who needs a lot of affection and attention if you're someone who travels a lot. These are just examples, but there are a lot of things to consider depending on who you are and what you need. You may know a lot about your friend or relative, but they'll know themselves best and what changes, if any, they're willing to make in their life. Molly Weinfurter with Mutts About Pets explains that choosing the right pet to adopt is a big decision with lasting impact:

"Getting a puppy or dog is a big decision. That canine will be a part of your family for years to come, so you need to make sure you choose one that’s the perfect fit for your family members and your lifestyle."

You might have considered that, since they already have a pet a second or third (or tenth) might not be a big shake-up in their life. But what if this pet doesn't get along with the ones they already have? This happens all the time and usually ends up with having to rehome one or the other.

4. Eventually, pets pass away.

When a loved one passes away, it's extremely difficult and can change the lives of the people closest to them. As living creatures, pets are guaranteed to pass eventually. In some cases, unfortunately, their time might come sooner than you think. Several years ago, a friend adopted a puppy that became sick and died only days after she took him home. Like people, some animals can be born with genetic conditions that might cut their time short, and not be detected for a while.

Gifting a pet is done with the idea that you're giving someone a companion who is going to be there for them and love them unconditionally. You're hoping they're going to bond with this animal. When the time comes that the bond is broken - and it will someday - it's going to cause heartbreak. Those of us who have animals know that pain is worth the years of love and friendship, but it's something we choose to take on ourselves - not something thrust upon us. It might be a morbid thought but it's one I've considered every time I've adopted a pet - I will become emotionally attached to this thing and it will leave me someday and I will be devastated.

There are, of course, some situations in which it's not so bad to gift a pet - like if you're surprising your kids and know you're going to end up doing some (if not all) of the walking and feeding and vet visits, and you plan to be there for them when their pet passes away. But in most situations, it's probably best to stick to something that doesn't come with so much responsibility. If you're still eager to give something cute and fuzzy, consider something from this list of 11 Best Plush Gifts for All Ages.


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