Pets are cute, but may not be the best gift
BY BRAVETTA HASSELL World Scene Writer
Saturday, December 15, 2012
12/15/12 at 4:49 AM
It's holiday time, and veterinarian Rodney Robards is seeing an uptick in patients: cute little puppies being given as gifts. More will come after Christmas, too.
That's perfect if the recipient is ready to have a dog - or cat - and has the appropriate resources to be a good owner. Otherwise, Robards said, think twice about giving the gift of a dog or cat for the holidays - or at the very least, do as much research as possible.
"There's a whole lot more that goes into it than just a cute little puppy that goes under the tree," said Robards, of Southern Hills Veterinary Hospital.
There are a variety of things you need to think about before investing in a pet for someone. Robards said people need to consider the type of pet they're going to get as far as breed and the sex of the dog or cat.
What's the temperament of the breed of the animal? How big will it get? How much space and attention will it require?
There are other concerns, too, such as a single person who lives in an apartment maybe not wanting the same kind of pet that a married couple with kids in a house wants.
"They've got to consider it's a lifetime commitment," Robards said. "It's not something that looks cute now and then 'we're done with that.' "
A pet can live for as long as 15 to 20 years, so that could mean 15 to 20 years of feeding, medical expenses and more, the veterinarian said, adding that any number of the unwanted pets at adoption agencies are ones that were initially Christmas presents, "so it's kind of sad."
Once you've done all your homework and determined that a dog or cat is indeed a great gift for your friend or loved one (and it's helpful if they've expressed an interest in having one), Robards recommends taking the pet to a veterinarian to get checked out for parasites - especially with puppies - before giving it as a gift.
Otherwise, pets can make great members of the family, providing plenty of love with their own unique personalities.
If the recipient is prepared, it's a great option, Robards said.
"Kids love them, and it's a great gift if everybody is on board and is prepared."
So your child wants a pet but isn't necessarily ready for one?
"Think it through before you make a quick decision," Southern Hills veterinarian Rodney Robards said.
If you want to see how responsible your child will be, Robards suggests starting with a "pocket pet" such as a hamster.
"Guinea pigs are cute, but they are a big responsibility."
He also suggests fish. They may not be as lovable as a dog or cat but are "a good little entrance into the live-animal world."
All in all, whatever starter pet you choose, it won't be the same as a puppy, Robards said, but it's a good entrance into owning one down the line.
For more ideas on the best pet for your child, visit tulsaworld.com/starterpets
A pet for Christmas
Southern Hills Veterinary Hospital veterinarian Rodney Robards offers a checklist before heading to your local adoption agency or breeder to bring home a hound for the holidays.
WHEN IT'S A BAD IDEA...
The holiday season: It rarely leaves you with time, energy and attention to spare. If you're too busy to set a routine to feed and walk your new puppy, it will be almost impossible for it to learn how to behave.
A lively young puppy or kitten is almost guaranteed to go after blinking lights, shiny ornaments, trailing tinsel - all of which can be dangerous. Put off the adoption until the decorations are put away until next year.
WHEN IT'S A GOOD IDEA....
- Consider that most people like to choose their own pet companion.
- Never give a cat or a dog to replace one that just died. Some people need time to mourn their loss before they can welcome a new animal into their lives.
Extra tip: Instead of bringing a surprise pet home, you can put presents under the tree - a bowl, a collar, a book about dogs or cats. Enclose a "gift certificate," a card that promises to take family members to a breeder or shelter after the holidays so they can choose the pet of their dreams.
- A single person who will spend most of the holiday season alone and wants company.
- A couple without children who would like the emotional payback a pet provides.
- People with time to spare: All new pets need extra attention, but puppies and kittens 8 to 16 weeks old need intense socialization at this phase of their lives.
In the event you discover your gift recipient was not ready for the pet you gave them and you are unable to take care of it, Robards suggests trying to first find a friend who is interested in assuming care of the animal. Taking the animal to an adoption agency is a great idea but should be the last resort as shelters are already overwhelmed with animals, Robards said. And letting the pet go along the side of the road should never be an option.
Original Print Headline: A pet may not be best gift
Bravetta Hassell 918-581-8316
Veterinarians urge parents to think twice before letting Santa put a puppy or kitten under the Christmas tree. SCOTT MASON/Associated Press file