page header image

Should pets be Christmas presents?

Original Publication Date: December 2, 2014
By C. Sue Furman, Ph.D.

Black Friday is behind us, but many are still searching for the perfect gift for a loved one. There may be a special child, a significant other, or an elderly relative who you think needs a pet as a companion. Consider wisely before giving Santa a hand and leaving a puppy or kitten under the tree.

Does the recipient really want a pet at this point in his life? Will adding a pet fit his or her work schedule? Does the recipient have a yard, a fence, or allergies? The furry little friend that you deliver on Christmas morning is a lifetime commitment that will be a family member for 10 or 20 years. You may think you are placing a bundle of joy under the tree, but it will require a lot of human time to walk, groom, train, play, snuggle and love. Your gift will drastically change the daily routine of your friend.

The cost of pet ownership may be greater than you imagine or your friend wants. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals estimates the first year expense of ownership is $1,314 for a small dog, $1,580 for a medium dog, $1,843 for a large dog, and $1,035 for a cat. Those amounts include food, bowls, treats, chew toys, routine veterinary care, spaying or neutering, collars, leashes, training, grooming supplies, litter, pet beds, crates and toys.

These expenditures are for the routine care of a pet. Other experts suggest the first year cost could be as high as $10,000 if the new owner builds a fence, hires doggy day care services or needs emergency veterinary care.

A cat could have a hidden expense of reupholstering if he uses furniture for sharpening his nails. The financial commitment may surprise the new owner more than the Christmas puppy or kitten.

Should pets be Christmas presents? Should pets be Christmas presents?
(click image to enlarge)

Holidays have their own set of demands with lots of family and friends, parties, special meals, decorations, gift exchanges and hectic activities. Adding a new puppy or kitten to the mix could be difficult for your friend and the commotion of festivities may be confusing for a new pet.

After careful consideration and involving the recipient, a pet may be an appropriate gift, but consider these do's and don'ts. Do not buy from a pet store that purchases pets from puppy mills. Do adopt from a shelter, rescue operation or reputable breeder. Do not put the new bundle in a box under the tree. He does not need to be placed in a small dark container surrounded by lots of noise only to have the lid lifted to the excited shrieks of a total stranger. That would be pretty frightening.

Adding a pet as a new family member is a big decision best made by the person or family that must commit time, finances and love to support their new friend.

Sue Furman, Ph.D, has published two books and a DVD on canine massage and teaches classes in pet massage, acupressure, first aid and CPR. See her schedule and submit questions at