Surprise! We Bought you a Pet!

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Buying a pet as a present for a birthday or holiday might feel like a fun and novel way to bring joy to a loved one’s life, but giving something that eats, breathes and poops is far more complicated than gifting a stuffed animal.

Before you give in to the urge to buy a gift that has feathers, fur or fins, consider the pros and cons of giving a pet as a gift. That critter with bows could bring joy or aggravation, depending on the household and its circumstances.

Upside: It Teaches Responsibility
For many families, buying or adopting a first pet, as a planned event or a surprise gift, is usually done with the intention of creating a learning experience for the children.
Regardless of how or why parents or grandparents choose to gift a pet, there needs to be some serious research on the front end of this idea before a living, breathing, eating animal is placed into eager little arms.

Pro and Con: Longevity
Having a pet that will love them forever is something all pet owners yearn for, and pets can be a constant companion for many years. This fact could be viewed as both a pro and a con.

For example, rabbits are furry and cute, but they have relatively short lifespans of seven to ten years. The average life spans of dogs and cats, depending on the breed, is 9 to 15 years. Betta fish and hamsters have a quicker expiration date, usually living only around two years. On the flipside, turtles or tortoises can live up to 50 years and cockatiels and Koi fish are hardy enough to hang in there for as many as 25 years. Keep both lifestyle and life span in mind when choosing a pet.

Downside: Owners Grow and Change
Pets need to be able to fit a child or family’s ever-evolving lifestyle. The ball python that was gifted to Johnny when he was 13 may not be welcome anywhere after Johnny grows up and heads off to college or the military.

The puppy that Suzy received for her ninth birthday may seem like a dream come true until she discovers that her new furry friend gets car sick, is afraid of storms, and is very expensive to board when the family goes on vacation.

Is It a Good Fit?
Because the novelty of new gift pet can wear off quickly, rescues and adoption centers across the U.S. are flooded with unwanted animals every year.

“I try to advise people to please not get pet reptiles for a child unless you are fully willing to care for it,” shared Sandra Hartness, Dusty Bellies Reptile Rescue in Yucca Valley, California. “This applies to all pets. Even if your child is very responsible, parents will still need to be prepared to take over the pet care if or when their child’s interest wanes.”

Hartness added that lack of knowledge on animal husbandry is another reason pet owners get frustrated and surrender their animal. “I get brought a lot of sick animals because of the lack of exotic vets in communities and the cost of veterinary care. But the most common reason for surrender is that the owner has a major life change, illness or they need to move away. I encourage families to look at the bigger picture of things when thinking about gifting any kind of animal.”

Wild Animals as Pets
It might be tempting to keep that fluffy little wild bunny or seemingly orphaned fawn, but wild animals have things in their DNA that do not make them good pets no matter how much they capture your heart.

Foxes are a good example. Pet foxes may seem like a fun and whimsical pet that will be a wild version of your favorite domestic canine, but that’s not the case. Faced with the reality of people’s enchantment with foxes daily, Reanna Morgan and SaveAFox Rescue shared some sage advice about keeping them as pets. “People have been mesmerized by any species of fox for years,” Morgan shared. “With that in mind, SaveAFox is always trying to educate the public on avoiding keeping them as pets. A fox is not a puppy, and it’s not going to act like one.”

Morgan acknowledged that, even though they are majestic and beautiful, foxes need very secure enclosures and a specialized diet, and they can’t be housetrained. “A fox is a 10- to 15-year commitment that will change your life, so we encourage people to think twice about bringing one into their lives.”

Pets are a long-term commitment. While the recipient of the gifted critter might be very excited with the new addition, it can also turn sour very quickly if the “gift” was not carefully researched and planned. ■

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