Are pets as gifts a good idea for the holidays?


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Are pets as gifts a good idea for the holidays?

Updated Dec 21, 2021

It’s the time of year for gift-giving and giving pets as gifts is sometimes at the top of that list. Some animal shelters, however, frown on pets as gifts for fear the animals will be “returned” to the shelter after the holidays. But a study conducted by the ASPCA in 2013 seems to indicate animal shelters have nothing to worry about and giving pets as gifts may not be a bad idea after all.

According to the ASPCA’s survey, 96 percent of the people who received pets as gifts said it had no impact on their love or attachment of the pet; 86 percent said the pets they received as gifts were still in the home. As a result of this survey, the ASPCA now encourages local animal shelters and rescue groups to adopt pets around the holidays, since these pets aren’t returned more often than any other time of the year.

Before you put a bow on a pet though, please remember that animals are living beings with personalities and emotions, and your preparation and consideration beforehand will help ensure their well-being going forward. Knowing what kind of pet the recipient wants, how long the pet’s lifespan will be, and how the pet’s needs and activity level will fit with the recipient’s lifestyle, will go a long way in ensuring the pet is a good match for its new home.

If you’re thinking about getting a pet as a gift for someone, here are a few more suggestions. First, don’t deny someone the joy of selecting their pet. If grandma wants a pet, she may permit you to find her one, but she also may enjoy the experience of going to the animal shelter or pet store and selecting a pet with you.

Second, if children under eight-years-old want a pet, parents should consider leaving them at home when selecting a pet. Young children often attach quickly to pets and, through begging, can sideline a parent’s best efforts to find a pet that fits well with the family. Older kids, however, love the idea of visiting a shelter or pet store and finding a pet with the family. Before you head out the door, set some parameters for the type and size pet you are looking for so you can keep them focused.

And, of course, if you know someone wants a pet, but you don’t want the responsibility of finding the right one, consider giving them a gift certificate to an animal shelter or pet store. Or, buy them pet supplies, like a litter box and litter for a cat or bird food and a birdcage for a bird, so the recipient is better prepared when the new pet comes home.

Cathy M. Rosenthal is a longtime animal advocate, children’s author, syndicated pet columnist, and pet expert with more than 30 years in the animal welfare field. Send your pet questions, stories and tips to Please include your name, city, and state. You can follow her @cathymrosenthal

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Cathy Rosenthal (aka The Pet Pundit), CHES, CFE
Animal Welfare Communications Specialist

Cathy brings more than 35 years' experience in the animal welfare field. She is a sought-after speaker, Certified Humane Education Specialist, a syndicated pet advice columnist, an author, a publisher, and of course - a loving pet parent.

Read more about Cathy here or check out her Non-Profit's page to see more ways she can help you and your organization.

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