The surprise of a puppy on Christmas morning may seem sweet, but it's always better to check that the recipient is prepared for a pet before you give them one as a gift.

By Kelli Bender
December 22, 2020 03:33 PM
Credit: Getty

Cats and dogs might seem like great gift ideas because they are so cute, but unlike other holiday gifts, pets come with a serious commitment.

"Pets require a lot of responsibility. It's not feasible to think that children can take care of a puppy or kitten – they will need adult supervision at all times," Stacey DiNuzzo, the communications director at Pasado's Safe Haven in Sultan, Wash., told PEOPLE about why families shouldn't rush to give pets as gifts  "A dog or cat will be with you for 10 years or more, so be sure you are prepared for that level of commitment."

Unfortunately, there are often those who don't think this decision through, and the pet ends up suffering as a result. Pasado's Safe Haven is one of the countless rescues that receive surrendered animals post-holidays, after the gift getter's initial enthusiasm for their new animal has subsided.

To prevent more innocent pets from being abandoned after their novelty has worn off, Pasado's Safe Haven is offering a gentle reminder to holiday shoppers to avoid getting pets as gifts unless the receiver knows what they are getting and can commit to caring for a furry friend.

Along with interest in raising a pet, another thing to look out for when picking out a cat or dog as a gift is nefarious breeders.

"Never, ever buy from a pet store," DiNuzzo shared, adding that animals in these stores are often from puppy mills and backyard breeders that severely neglect the pets under their care. "Reputable breeders will invite you into their homes to see where the puppy or kitten was born, and will usually let you meet the animal's parents. Reputable breeders also will ask a lot of questions to make sure the pet is going to a good home."

Though DiNuzzo's preferred means of pet procurement is adoption.

"Adopt from a local shelter, and if you have previous experience with dogs or cats, consider adopting an older one. Older pets usually require less time and attention than puppies or kittens!" she said on the best way to get a pet.

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Animal lovers expecting a pet for the holidays also need to be willing and able to prepare for the pet's arrival. While getting a surprise puppy on Christmas morning may seem sweet, that feeling can easily sour when the recipient realizes they haven't puppy-proofed their house or prepared to train a dog.

"You want to make sure you have pet bowls for food and water, a pet bed, and other accessories," DiNuzzo advised, adding that puppy training classes, chew toys, puppy-proofing equipment and more will be required if you choose to give a baby dog as a gift.

All of this is to say that while getting a pet for the holidays isn't wrong, it needs to be done right. If you are planning on giving a family member or friend a pet as a gift, talk to them about the decision first, make sure they are prepared, and offer to take them to a shelter or reputable breeder to pick out their own pet. If the recipient lives in a home with other people, make sure all other humans and animals living in the home are also comfortable with this choice.

The goal should always be to set this future pet up for success in a home that is dedicated to providing the animal with a lifetime of love and care.