Most people would not opt to give a friend or a loved one a pet as a gift. It’s basically thought to be common sense at this point that we should never give a dog or a cat or a hamster or any other living, breathing animal as a gift. Although we love our pets and the person we are giving a gift to may love animals, it’s just not a good idea.
However, despite that perspective definitely being the mainstream and being what is considered common sense, some people are starting to change this conventional thinking. In spite of many (if not most) articles online warning against giving any sort of pet as a gift, many pet adoption experts, including those from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), are actually beginning to encourage the practice under the right conditions.
Why Might Pet Gifting Be a Good Thing?
According to the ASPCA, recent studies have shown that pets received as gifts are less likely to end up in animal shelters than pets either directly adopted by owners or bought from other sources. In fact, in their own study conducted a few years back, the ASPCA found that the majority of the 222 people they polled who received pets as gifts felt a stronger attachment to the pet, especially if they received it from a loved one. Not only were 86% of the pets still in the home, but a majority of respondents said that receiving a pet as a gift had increased their self-perceived love for that animal.
The Vice President of Shelter Services for the ASPCA, Christa Chadwick, had this to say: "When people think about pets as gifts, they’re thinking about the worst case scenario — that [the recipients] have no interest in getting a pet. We think it’s perfectly cool and okay to give pets as gifts as long as you have an understanding that the person you’re giving the pet to has an interest in owning one."
When to Give a Pet as a Gift
The last part of the above quote is the crux of the matter. It’s also what can make pet gifting a difficult and scary prospect for many. The person you are gifting the animal to has to really want to have a pet. Think about it for a moment—if you’re giving someone an animal then you probably have one yourself, so you understand what a responsibility it is.
Far different from giving someone a set of knives, a gift card for a massage, or even a new car, when you are gifting an animal, you’re transferring responsibility of a living, breathing thing. This should not be done lightly. So before giving someone a life to care for, you better have made sure that they are constantly talking about it, have expressed sustained, serious interest in it, and that they are the type of person who both likes surprises and gifts that will “keep on giving”.
The best way to make sure the person really wants a pet is to ask them outright. You don’t have to necessarily give away the surprise, but find a way to be absolutely sure this is something that they want to have.
Other Factors to Consider
In addition to making sure your friend or family member would be receptive to a pet gift, there are also some other factors to consider before actually moving forward.
- Is this person capable of taking care of a pet?
Obviously, you should not be gifting a pet to a child or someone who is physically or mentally incapacitated. In the case of children, it would be a very good idea to consult the parents first.
- What is the person’s financial situation?
Owning a pet can be an expensive proposition. The cost of food, litter, leashes, toys, shots, vet appointments will quickly add up. You have to make sure the recipient has both the ability and the motivation to invest their hard earned dollars into having an animal.
- What is the recipient’s lifestyle?
The person may have the motivation and financial capabilities to own a pet, but would their lifestyle really support it and be healthy for the animal? If the person in question travels often for work or works long hours each and every day, it might not be the best choice. If they have small children, it might not be the best choice either.
- Are there other people in the recipient’s household?
Animals affect everyone who lives in a household. You should ask the other people living there if they have pet allergies, any fear of any type of animal, or, generally, if they would object to having an animal in the house.
- Are you ready to care for the animal?
At the end of the day, as someone who is gifting a pet, you have to be ready to take responsibility for it if need be. By deciding to give an animal as a pet, you bear ultimate responsibility for it until the recipients decide to take over that responsibility. Be prepared to take over ownership of the pet if it doesn’t work out with the recipients.
Conclusion: How to Gift Pets
Pet gifting can be a great idea, so long as you consult all necessary parties and everyone is on board and ready for it. There are many animals who are in need of safe and loving homes. The ASPCA recommends that pets be obtained from animal shelters, rescue organizations, friends, family or responsible breeders—not from places where the source of the animal is unknown or untrusted.
If you think a friend or family member would love an animal and make a great owner, then a pet can be a truly meaningful and special gift.