Q: We’re planning to get my elderly grandmother a pet for Christmas because she’s lonely. Is it better to get her an adult cat or a kitten?
A: While there are many reasons to give a pet as a gift, experts advise against doing so. Dogs and cats are a 10–15 year commitment and entail significant ongoing costs and care.
Every animal is an individual, and making sure the pet’s personality is compatible with the intended recipient is extremely important. Further, just because you think someone wants or needs a pet doesn’t necessarily mean they do, and many people end up with a pet who doesn’t match their lifestyle because they don’t want to offend the giver.
If you have discussed getting a pet with the intended recipient and are positive that is what they want, it is better to bring the pet home at a quieter time. The holidays can be chaotic, which risks a difficult start to the relationship.
Instead, consider gifting the person with supplies such as pet food and toys or gift cards for training, grooming and vet care and have them bring home their new companion later. Most rescue organizations will provide gift certificates, allowing the person to pick out their own pet and ensuring a great match.
Q: With the holidays coming up, are there any special dangers I should be aware of regarding my dog?
A: The holidays are a busy and exciting time for people but can be stressful and even dangerous for pets. Travel and visitors can cause additional stress for pets who are unaccustomed to so much hustle and bustle. Give your pet a quiet area in which to escape, and keep their schedule as routine as possible.
Remember to provide plenty of physical and mental exercise to allow your furry friend to decompress. Consider boarding if your pet tends to be uncomfortable or aggressive towards guests, especially if small children will be visiting. If your dog can be rowdy or disobedient, hire a trainer well in advance to help you prepare for company.
Rich foods can cause digestive upset or even pancreatitis, so be cautious when giving table scraps to pets. Avoid toxins such as chocolate, alcohol, macadamia nuts, onions, grapes and raisins. Cooked bones can splinter and perforate the bowels, so never give these to a pet.
Decorate with your pet’s safety in mind. Cats may ingest tinsel, ribbon or other stringy decorations. Ball-crazy dogs can be at risk from round glass ornaments. Anything breakable should be used with care. Wrapped gifts should be kept out of reach if you are unsure what’s inside, as food items could present too much temptation.
Most of all, remember to appreciate the true purpose of the holidays: enjoying time with those you love, both two-legged and four.
Sara Reusche is a certified professional dog trainer and certified veterinary technician. She owns Paws Abilities Dog Training in Rochester, lives with two dogs of her own and fosters for local rescue organizations. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.