The holidays can be the best of times to welcome a new pet into your home. Or they can be the worst of times. While the emotions and warmth of the season can inspire you to share your home with an animal, the distractions can also make this a terrible time to bring home a furry friend. Here are some guidelines to keep in mind when thinking about acquiring a pet over the holidays.
The Worst of Times
There’s no shame in being honest. Most households are too preoccupied with the festivities to take on the responsibility of a new pet. Here are some reasons to put off an adoption until after the holidays are over.
Beginnings are important. When you welcome a pet into your home, you promise to keep him for life. You must make him a priority until he feels comfortable as a member of the family. The holiday season – with its shopping, entertaining and general confusion – rarely leaves you with time, energy and attention to spare.
Training is crucial. When you bring home a dog – especially a puppy – it’s important to set up a routine he can count on. If you’re too busy to feed and walk him on schedule, it’s almost impossible for him to learn how to behave. He may lose his appetite, wet the carpet, or act out destructively. If it’s hard enough to keep a well-trained dog on an even keel during the holidays, think of the confusion a new pet will feel amid the Yuletide chaos.
Holiday food and decorations. A lively young puppy or kitten is almost guaranteed to go after blinking lights, shiny ornaments, trailing tinsel – all of which can be dangerous. Put off the adoption until the decorations are put away until next year.
The Best of Times
People communicate almost intuitively with animals, and some people can get to know and appreciate a pet in the best spirit of the season. Who can do it? Here are some candidates.
A single person who will spend most of the holiday season alone and wants company.
A couple without children who would like the emotional payback a pet provides.
People with time to spare. Can at least one adult take time off from work for about two weeks? Can you give large chunks of time to your new pet, playing and getting to know his personality, his likes and dislikes? All new pets need extra attention, but puppies and kittens 8 to 16 weeks old need intense socialization at this phase of their lives.
People who want to scale down. Families who have decided to change the pace of their holiday can do well with a new pet. You have to be willing to spend a season with a minimum of decorations and visitors, but if you’re ready for him, a new pet can bring great joy to the season.
Never Give an Unexpected Living Gift
People sometimes make the mistake of providing a pet to ease the loneliness of a friend, but all too often these animals wind up in a shelter by New Year’s. Here are a few reasons pets never make good surprises.
You can’t be sure that the recipient wants to take on the responsibility of a pet, including providing medical care for the next 10 to 20 years.
A person should be able to choose his or her own pet companion.
Never give a cat or a dog to replace one that just died. Some people need time to mourn their loss before they can welcome a new animal into their lives.
Give the Promise of a Pet Instead
Instead of bringing a surprise pet home, you can put presents under the tree – a bowl, a collar, a book about dogs or cats. Enclose a “gift certificate,” a card that promises to take family members to a breeder or shelter after the holidays so they can choose the pet of their dreams.