Yes, the idea of watching your loved ones’ reaction to seeing a sweet little puppy under the Christmas tree is pretty heartwarming. But according to PEOPLE’s Pet Vet, Dr. Evan Antin, pets as holiday presents are rarely a good idea.
“Every animal — dog, cat, bird, reptile — requires certain care and knowledge of how to care for it,” Antin tells PEOPLE. “If someone isn’t expecting an animal, they’re likely not going to have that necessary knowledge, either.”
Same goes for free time — and extra cash. “You want to prepare your lifestyle for an animal, how much time you have to commit to it,” he shares. “And you need a budget: What if this pet needs medical care, or special food? It’s not something you want thrown in your lap.”
If you have your heart set on a pet for the holidays, though, Antin asks that you adopt, don’t shop.
“There are so many animals that need homes and don’t have them,” he says. “There are even a lot of exotics rescues that have the type of animals you’d see in a pet shop. So don’t make a pet shop the first place you buy.” It’s helpful to bring along the family members who will be living with the pet, too, to make sure your furbaby-to-be is a good personality fit.
Once your pet is home, be sure your house is animal-proofed. “It’s a lot of trial and error, but make sure your pet can’t get into food, pantries, any little toys,” he says. If you acquire a puppy, “lock up your leather purses, belts and shoes,” he adds, “because puppies like to chew on expensive stuff like that.”
And finally, if you’re getting more than one pet, consider investing in pet insurance. “It’s pretty expensive,” he cautions, “but if you have multiple pets, you could end up saving money in the long run.”