Three Reasons Why Animals Make Great Pets, But Not Great Gifts

It’s April, which means it’s officially my birthday month. It’s at this time that my close friends and family members start asking me what I want for presents. I quickly send them links to all my Amazon finds and I smile, knowing I’ll get exactly what I really want as I turn the calendar page to another year older. At the top of my list are organic cosmetics, an essential oil diffuser, and a bigger book basket to replace the overflowing one in our living room.

One thing that’s definitely not only my list: a new pet. Don’t get me wrong; I adore animals and our 16-year-old bichon frise Pablo is such a joy in our family. I’d also be willing to talk about adding another furry sibling to our brood. Yet, my loved ones know better than to spring one on me without asking first. You see, pets need tons of attention, food, and time. Right now, with two kids under the age of four, those are three things we run short on sometimes and it would simply be irresponsible to take on an extra responsibility.

To that end, it’s important to remember that even though a tiny puppy with a bow on its collar is downright adorable, it’s not smart to gift one to someone unexpectedly, even if the recipient in question is a huge dog person. Here are three reasons why:

1. Their family situation may not be an ideal fit.

Are there small children in the family home? If so, they might not be ready to accept a new, four-legged member of the family. Moreover, if they’re very small children, they might be at risk of being trampled on or bitten, mistaken for another animal. They could also inflict harm on the animal itself without really knowing what they’re doing. From scratching their fur to breaking their tiny bones, children often don’t realize how rough they’re playing.

Or, the spouses could be going through some marital issues or even divorce. If this is the case and especially if there are children involved, determining who will “get” the dog and take care of it can be an extra point of contention that can breed jealousy and resentment. Even if it’s a close family member and you think you know everything about their living situation, it’s best to err on the side of caution and not simply assume they’d love a pet as a gift.

2. It’s a long-term commitment.

Sure, that bunny with a bow-tie on looks adorable in pictures. Yet, bring it home and you soon realize that it’s a lot of work. Of course, animal lovers will (rightly) tell you that the maintenance, time, and money spent is more than worth it. Still, remember that the immediate happy reaction you might create could quickly wane as the “honeymoon phase” wears off.

When you give someone a pet as a gift, you’re essentially giving them a responsibility for years to come. Determining on the species, a pet could live for decades! Suddenly, they’re saddled with an unexpected, albeit adorable, duty that they have to maintain for the course of the animal’s lifetime. From flea and tick medicine to routine checkups and shots, new pet owners have a ton to think about. One day, they’re focused on their work commitments and spending time with family, and the next, they’re researching “what are best dog shock collars” and reading online reviews on chew toys. They may love the new challenge, or they may not. The truth is, you don’t know for sure, so it’s best to steer clear.

3. It’s expensive.

As mentioned previously, keeping up with the care that a pet requires isn’t cheap. From vaccines to medications and every emergency veterinarian visit in between, the costs add up quickly. Even if you rescue the animal or adopt it from a shelter (always your best first option), what started out as an inexpensive journey can quickly turn into a costly one, and it’s simply unwise to force those expenses on someone who isn’t ready to take on the financial burden.

Even if you believe the recipient to be stable enough to support the price of these requirements, keep in mind that spending money is a personal decision. How one chooses to use their hard-earned cash is up to them, and you can’t assume they’ll be willing to shell out what it takes to keep the pet healthy.

Gift-Giving Alternatives to Get Started

At the end of the day, giving a pet as a gift might sound like a great idea, but it’s one you should avoid. With so many options on the market today, you can easily find an inanimate gift that’s just as meaningful as an animal, and will evoke the same joyful response. So be creative and have fun with your gift-giving, but keep pets out of the equation.

Consider a spa day, or a round of golf for your buddies who need to relax a little. Or, you can spring for a nice meal out or even a gift card if you’re not sure where to look in the store. It really is the thought that counts when it comes to giving from the heart, so think twice as you make your decision.