There are few gifts more exciting than a cute, playful, loving companion. Think about it: a new pet could become a cuddly new playmate for your kids, and even a fully-fledged member of the family for years to come.
Well, it’s an exciting idea until the novelty wears off...and suddenly you’re left looking after it 24/7!
All too often, pets are bought as grand gestures to surprise loved ones, and end up being rehomed, or even abandoned, when their owners lack the motivation or the know-how to take care of them. So, how can this be avoided?
First, make sure you choose the right pet.
What sort of animal would suit your home and lifestyle?
- If you would like an active pet that never tires of games and tricks, consider getting a dog.
- If you would prefer a quieter animal that doesn’t require too much training, think about a cat or a rabbit.
- If you have a limited amount of space, perhaps a small rodent or bird might be better.
Don’t let stereotypes fool you either – dogs can be hard to train, cats need attention, and rabbits need more space than a bog-standard hutch. Do your research - and choose wisely.
Then, prepare your family - especially any children involved.
Your children must be ready to meet the needs of the new arrival, so getting a pet as a surprise present is out of the question.
- Ask them what it is about that kind of pet that they are drawn to, and how they might give it the best possible life.
- Give them some reading material - there are plenty of books, websites, and leaflets specifically written for children.
- Give them an opportunity to practice - either through voluntary work at a shelter, or through minding someone else’s pet. That way, they will learn how best to handle and interact with a pet, as well as basic care tips.
- Talk it through with them - a lot. If possible, start long before Christmas, explaining to them that an animal would need regular feeding, watering, socialising, and cleaning for the rest of its life - even when the child doesn’t feel like it.
If your child simply loses interest in the idea whilst preparing, then it might be wise to reconsider. If they’re still keen, then they should prepared too - so taking some responsibility for this new companion might even bring out the best in them.
Finally, consider the timing.
Christmas is actually a pretty tough time to introduce a pet into the family - even with all your careful preparation. It’s busy, your routine is different, and chances are there will be plenty of people coming and going. Any new animal will be unsettled by everything and will need time and space to adapt to its surroundings. So perhaps consider gifting the accessories on the day, and picking up the animal after the festive chaos is over!