A Footnote (pawprint) to Holiday Gifts

There have been movies, greeting cards and stories about receiving a pet as a Christmas gift.  It’s an adorable visual, but the reality often turns out to be anything but adorable.

Very few people would consider bringing a baby to a family for Christmas!  Puppies and kittens are still babies, who need special and constant care and attention, as well as training.  The responsibility for this seldom falls on the shoulders of the child who wanted it–or not for long, anyway.  The job of feeding, grooming, training, walking (if it’s a dog) and cleaning up after the pet will end up with one of the adults in the family.  As a pet mommy, I am happy to care for my darlings because of the love and joy they bring to my life, but it was my choice.

There are long-term expenses to consider: food, medical care, toys, leashes and collars, licenses.  If you frequent Paws N’ Think, you know that keeping your pet healthy will require more than the store brand kibble and tap water, and that not providing the best food and water will cost more in the long run, as well as heartache.  And keep in mind that one or more family members may have pet allergies of which you’re unaware.

Then there is the all-important matter of matching the pet to the family.  Perhaps you found a particular individual at the shelter or the breeder irresistible, but it may not be the right one for the intended recipient.   When I went to pick up the kitten I thought was coming home with me the week following his being neutered, the fosterer pointed at him and said, “Well, here he is!”  (My husband had wanted an orange and white kitten.)  But his brother, a champagne striped tabby, locked eyes with me.  I said, “C’mere, little buddy,” and he crawled over the table, up my arm and took a nap on my shoulder as I completed the agency’s paperwork.  (Then the fosterer told me she had been calling him Buddha!)  It was God’s hand delivering exactly the perfect kitten for our family, and Buddy is a creature of beauty and a joy.  It was reminiscent of my finding Toby, the first cat of our 32 year marriage, at a high kill shelter.  The walls were lined with cats and kittens of every size and color, but at the end of the room, a tuxedo kitten locked eyes with me, stuck his paw out of the cage, and motioned me over.  When I asked the attendant to let me hold him, he leapt to my shoulder and refused to be removed!  My point is that one cannot choose a pet for someone else and be sure it is a good fit.

BUT–if an adult who has the time and resources to care for a pet (but maybe not the initial cash the rescues need to stay current with expenses) has hinted that she or she would love to own a kitten or puppy or grown cat or dog–you can help by going to the rescue or shelter and paying those expenses for the pet owner-to-be, and then wrap an appropriate toy or pet bed with a card explaining the gift.  (You don’t have to poke air holes in the wrapping paper either.)  The other positive effect of this method is that a large holiday gathering is sure to overwhelm the animal–lots of new smells, noise and too many hands wanting to pet or hold him.  The new pet can be quietly introduced to his new home and family in a more peaceful and relaxed atmosphere later.

And don’t forget that both human and animal charities always need your help, but especially so during the holidays–and at least for 2012, it’s till tax deductible!

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