Christmas is now officially just around the corner. As we roll through into December it's important to remind people of the troubles of giving animals as gifts. Every year people give animals, typically kittens and puppies, as gifts to their loved ones. Already there has been news of animals being imported in squalid and unsanitary conditions ahead of Christmas this year. This is a problematic practice as these animals aren't always well received or later go neglected. Some owners don't think everything through. Whether you've decided to give someone a pet for Christmas or you're hoping to welcome a new animal to your home in the near future, these are important questions to ask yourself before you get a pet. I want animals to have homes. In writing this article I do not want to stop people getting pets altogether. I just want to make sure they're going to homes that are prepared to care for them where they will be loved and not neglected. Having a pet can be such a joyful and rewarding experience. That said, many people rush the decision to get an animal without thinking about the big picture and asking themselves some important questions before bringing a furry friend into their home.
Can you afford to support them?
Pets cost a decent amount of money. Can you pay, for example, £10 per week on food? What about pet insurance? Are you able to pay for pet insurance too? There's also the cost of getting your pet spayed or neutered and possibly even micro chipped. You'll have to fork out on animal accessories, regular flea and worm treatment, any kind of vet treatment. Younger pets may need various vaccinations which would be irresponsible of a pet owner to not provide. What would you do if suddenly you lost your job? Can you support an animal if the worst happens? It's important to always consider why you want a pet in the first place and then considering how much it will cost.
Do you have a suitable home for them? Will there be space for the pet in your home?
Indoor pets need space to roam. Cats will want to go outside. Dogs will want to run around. Do you have space in your home for a pet? Is your small apartment really the right amount of space for a large, energetic dog to bounce around in? Are your things going to get broken? If you live in an inner city apartment, how are you going to manage having a cat? Do you have enough space for one? If you're in an inner city apartment with a dog, will you have time to take it outside to go to the bathroom regularly? If not your life will involve a lot of cleaning up after their bowel movements. If you live in a rented property it is also CRUCIAL that you check your rental agreement to find out if you're allowed to have a pet where you currently live. It is best to discuss the decision with your landlord as this may incur fees and changes to your lease agreement. Are you going to move from one apartment to another? With a pet your choices will be limited because not all landlords allow animals in their buildings. This will leave you and your pet struggling to find a new home. Also, do you travel a lot? Animals don't want to sit at home alone. They will love you and therefore will want to spend time with you. If you work late hours and leave them home alone, they may get bored or even depressed. When you go on holiday you need to consider who will care for them too. It's such a big responsibility that you have to prepare for.
Is your pet for a child?
Buying a pet for a child can be wonderful. Seeing their eyes widen as they meet their pet for the first time could make you heart sing. It can be problematic though. Many people use pets as a way to teach their children about responsibility. This can, in some cases, lead to animals being neglected. This often occurs with small pets like hamsters. It is NOT the job of these animals to teach your children responsibility. It is YOUR job as a parent or guardian to teach them this. Even if it is a pet for your child, you must take an active role in caring for it. You will most likely be funding the existence of such an animal. If you are the head of the household then the responsibility falls to you as much as every other person in the house.
Consider animal size - can you provide for their needs?
Huskies have always been popular due to their wolf-like aesthetic. The only problem is that huskies are big dogs and therefore have certain needs. They have a lot of energy and need a great deal of attention and exercise. If you're looking to get a big dog, do you have the time to walk them for at least and hour every day? If not, have you considered a smaller dog that would be happy with a fifteen minute walk? Your dog needs to be walked every day. Yes, every day. You've got to consider if you even have time for a pet. If you're thinking of getting a horse, do you have the land, space, equipment and experience to care for one? Owning a horse is very different to owning a domesticated house pet. If you get something like a snake, are you prepared to feed it dead chicks, rats or live insects? Those tea cup piglets don't stay small forever. Are you willing to have a full grown pig walking around your house? (No, your spouse doesn't count.)
Pets are bought as gifts every year only to find that the person receiving them is allergic. The animals are then given up for adoption, resold and shuffled from one place to another. It may well be worth finding out in advance if anyone suffers from such allergies and looking into hypo-allergenic breeds.
What if you have children?
You have to plan ahead for this. It's all well and good adding a pet to the family but if a baby is thrown into the mix that can be too much to juggle. Some worry that the pet could harm the baby. This is another common reason as to why animals are re-homed and it's not good for them to be palmed off to another owner as soon as they become an 'inconvenience' in their first home. Some animals that come from shelters aren't compatible with children and can be aggressive although they're fine around adults. This is just another important factor to consider.
Do you have the patience to care for a long haired animal who needs a lot of cleaning up after?
Sure, huskies are stoic and wolf-like. Yes, Persian cats have the potential to make you look like a wicked Bond villain. Of course pomeranians are giant bags of cuteness. That said, they are long haired animals. They will need plenty of grooming. When I had a dog he wasn't even a particularly long-haired breed but he needed regular grooming and that costed quite a bit. It's not just for aesthetic reasons. Some dogs with long hair can end up with dirty, matted fur if left to their own devices. Some animals will shed hair all over your home. Are you prepared to run around in an attempt to clean all that up?
Where is your pet from? Are you supporting kitten/puppy farms?
This is the darkest part of the Christmas pet trade. As previously mentioned, on top of pre-existing puppy and kitten farms in the UK, animals are being shipped in from abroad to make a huge profit.
Don't support this awful industry. Life is not a commodity. If you want a pet then I urge you to look into animals currently in shelter awaiting homes. If you must get a pet for Christmas make it a gift for you and for that animal by giving them the gift of a forever home.