So, you want to buy your kid's, or family a pet for Christmas? It seems like a great idea for the best gift ever for your kids. What child doesn't think getting a puppy is like the best gift ever?
But, wait..... First let's consider a few things.
First off I will address the fact that many consider giving a living animal as a gift to your child cheapens the value of the animal being a living thing, and reduces him/her to a toy. I see that point, and agree, but hear me out. There is no such thing as a free animal from rescue, or from anywhere. They all have fees associated with them, and require immunizations, and other things. Even a rescue dog is likely to cost upwards of a couple hundred by the time all is said, and done depending on the fees at your local shelter. For a lot of us that money needs to come from somewhere, so the gift fund is often where it comes from. The same as this year Christmas in our household is a little short (okay a lot) due to our dog getting sick, and requiring a lot of very expensive vet care. The money had to come from somewhere, so it came out of our Christmas budget. Merry Christmas to us. We still have a healthy dog.
Now that I've got that out of the way let's get back to the main point. Picking out a pet.
A lot of times I think people don't think beyond the immediate time frame. Almost every day I can look at our local yard sale site, and see "Free to a good home" posts. They got a dog, or a cat then decided it was not going to work out. This is where I think kids get the idea from their parents that pet's lives are not important. It's not the fact it was given as a gift. It was the fact that it was given away like an old pair of shoes the minute the animal became an inconvenience. They are living things that deserve a family. The way to instill responsibility, and values in your kids is by showing them those virtues yourself.
What are some things to consider, and common problems that can occur?
* Time. This is a huge one. Of all the reasons I have seen people getting rid of their pets not having enough time to devote to them is the number one cited excuse. It is not even a reason 90% of the time. It is an excuse. Did they think the pet was going to take care of itself while they worked? Is working something that is new, or was unforeseeable when you got the pet you can't take care of because you're working all day? Most of us know what our lifestyle is like. We know how many hours a day we are home. We know that we may go back to work after the baby is so old, or whatnot. These are not surprises in our lives. Schedules (yes even future ones) need to be taken into consideration when one is planning on getting a pet for the family. Of course, there is the 10% of the time where I do think unpredictable life events like natural disaters, and death of a spouse could occur, and cause a completely different routine that has to take place where it really is not in anyone's control.
*Effort. This one kind of ties in with time, because I think a lot of people use it interchangeably with 'not having enough time' when what they really mean is "I don't want to spend my time, and energy on this endeavor." Getting a pet takes effort. Dogs need to be trained, and paid a lot of attention to. Cats a little less so, but still need some training, and care. So do birds, and rodent type of animals. Be honest with yourself before selecting a pet. Don't count on your kids to be the ones that will enthusiastically step up to care for the pet in 6 months. Remember the pet's lifespan may be way longer than your children will be at home. Be sure you can really devote your energy to the addition to your family long term. Some animals are easier to train than others. Some end up needing extra care. If you feel that you're household is too busy to care for a dog in the way it makes the dog feel like part of the family then maybe consider a cat. Hamsters, and fish are also good choices for a low maintenance type of pet.
*Finances. This is another area that I see overlooked quite often, too. People get a pet, then realize they don't have the accommodations for their pet. Dogs need yards to run in, and cats need scratching posts, and toys. Other animals might need big cages, and lots of other things, too. Getting rid of a pet, because they keep getting out of the fence, or scratching up the furniture is not necessary, imo. Be sure to have the money to make your home, and yard accommodating for your pet. Fences might need to be repaired, or redone. Animals are going to do what they do. It's your job to give them a safe environment to flourish in. This also may mean things like obedience class.
*Spay/Neuter your cat, and dog. Seriously. This one needed it's own category, because I have seen this happen so much, and it is completely preventable. Some people don't understand that if you do not spay, and neuter cats, and dogs it will seriously alter their behavior in negative ways. Lots of animals are brought to shelters everyday, because the owners did not understand that the pet was just doing what it instinctively does after puberty if it's not fixed. This includes extreme aggression for male dogs who suddenly bite anyone who gets near their home. Cats will pee all over of the house. They cannot help it. It has nothing to do with intelligence, or ability to behave. A cat that is not fixed will be unable to control the need to mark it's territory. They will also make it their life mission to get outside spurring a whole bunch more *free kittens* posts, because owners fail to fix their cats.
I am sure I missed a lot of points, but I think I managed to hit on the main ones I always see posted in ads as reasons people get rid of pets. Please, consider your schedule before getting a pet. Consider your living environment, if you may have to move to home with a no pet policy, too small of yard, ect.. Consider if you may add more members to the household. Having a baby is not a good reason to get rid of a pet. Remember that having pets can teach our kids responsibility, and how to selflessly care for another being outside of themselves, but also remember they're watching your example. Don't expect them to be able to always be the sole caretaker of the new pet after some of the enthusiasm wears off. They will need reminded, and you will need the patience to teach them how to care for their new furry family member.