Want to surprise someone with a sweet puppy or cuddly kitten this Christmas?
Think hard about it. Giving pets can be a good intentioned gift with unhappy results.
The person getting the pet may not want an animal but feel obligated to take it. Young children might be delighted with a puppy or kitten for a few days or weeks, but then ignore them.
Those animals could very well end up in an animal shelter later.
George Harding, manager of Lee’s Summit’s Animal Control, said that following Christmas there is usually an increase in the number of animals coming into the municipal animal shelter.
Harding notes that holidays are usually a chaotic situation and not ideal for adding a new member to the family.
It can be hard on an animal too. Bringing an animal home from a shelter or pet store is “taking them out of one uncertain and chaotic situation into a new chaotic situation.”
“It can be hard for them to cope,” Harding said.
Households which already have pets should take precautions to keep their animals safe, he said.
Holiday decorations like candles, small figurines, glass bowls, or low-hanging ornaments on Christmas trees can catch your pet’s attention and they’ll want to play with them. You can end up with broken or chewed ornaments and maybe an injured pet.
“Be mindful of what the animal can reach and what you have as well,” Harding said.
Keep chocolate and poinsettia plants out of reach. Chocolate is toxic to dogs, Harding said.
If a dog eats enough chocolate it could be fatal. Dogs or cats chewing poinsettia leaves can have irritated mouths or it can even cause vomiting.
Don’t let puppies have access to electrical cords, they love to chew and could get a serious shock.
An online search for tips on puppy-proofing Christmas trees can yield some other good tips.
Harding said if a family decides it does want to get a pet for Christmas, it should take steps to pick the right animal.
He recommends always involving anyone who’s going to be the pet owner in the process of choosing the animal. Children need to understand the responsibility, so consider if they’re age appropriate and if you’ll have time to help them with feeding and cleaning messes.
He strongly recommends getting an animal from a shelter or rescue group if possible, because there are so many homeless pets already.Harding said it’s easy to use an Internet search to learn about a potential pet’s size, habits and temperament and what’s required for its care.
“Choose a pet that fits into your lifestyle,” Harding said. “Don’t buy an animal on a whim. You always want to go into it knowing what you’re looking for.”