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Should Pets Be Given as Gifts?


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Few gifts can light up a child's eyes like the sight of a new family pet around the holidays. When kids awake on Christmas morning, the sight of a new puppy or kitten under the tree is one they'll remember for the rest of their lives.

While pets are valuable additions to a household, that doesn't mean that doggy in the window will automatically be a great fit with every family. Before adding a four-legged friend to your family this holiday season, ask yourself the following questions.

• Can it Wait?

The holidays are often a hectic time of year for families. Travel plans, holiday parties, school pageants, etc. can take up time and increase stress levels as well. That makes the holiday season a less-than- ideal time to add a pet, particularly a puppy or kitten, to a household. Puppies and kittens need special attention, more so than older pets that are already housebroken. Consider waiting until after the holidays to adopt a pet. This doesn't have to take away from the excitement of giving a child a pet on Christmas morning. Rather, give a child a gift certificate to an animal shelter and promise to take them to a nearby shelter once the stress of the season dies down.

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• Can you, the Adult, Handle the Additional Responsibility?

As much as Mom and Dad might emphasize to their kids that the new member of the family is the kids' responsibility, realistically, most of the duties will end up falling to Mom and Dad. Far too often, busy parents adopt pets around the holidays only to eventually return them to a shelter down the road. The excitement of a new pet can wear off under the weight of the responsibility pets present. If the family schedule is already too much to handle, the new pet will be the one who suffers most. Pets — while a valuable addition to most families — aren't for everyone. To avoid adopting a pet you don't have enough time to care for, determine if you truly have the time to devote to a new addition.

• Can your Kids Handle it?

Age should not necessarily determine whether or not your child can handle the responsibility of a pet. Some toddlers might be able to help care for a pet, while some teenagers might struggle with the responsibility. A good way of determining if kids can handle caring for a pet is to consider how they've handled responsibility in the past. A child who has never had any responsibilities, such as taking out the trash or cleaning their room, is probably not ready to be the primary caregiver for a pet. However, a child who has handled chores and demonstrated an ability to adequately handle such responsibilities over time, is probably ready for the responsibility of caring for a pet.

• Can you handle the financial responsiblity of a pet?

More than ever before, pets are as much a financial commitment as an emotional one. Visits to the veterinarian can be expensive. And as veterinary medicine has advanced, the costs of caring for pets have risen. Many veterinarians are inclined to place pets on diets that make for healthier and happier animals, even though such diets can be expensive. It's also important to note that pampering pets has become the norm, so kids might want to provide a certain level of care for their pets that can get expensive. Consider these costs, and whether or not you're willing to pay them, before adding a pet to the family.

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