With Christmas just round the corner you might be dreaming of a cuddly puppy, cute kitten or a pair of rabbits waiting for you under the tree. But before you ask Santa for a pet, or think about giving someone a pet as a present, stop and think: have you thought about what it takes to own a pet? And is Christmas the best time for a new pet to settle into your home?
The right pet can be a really rewarding addition to your family, but taking one on at this time of year may not be in the best interest of that pet. Introducing a new pet to your home takes a lot of planning, preparation and time, which you’re unlikely to have during the hustle and bustle of Christmas.
The festivities can be very stressful for pets. The noise and commotion can create additional worry for pets who find themselves in unusual surroundings. What they really need is peace and quiet while settling into a new home and routine.
It’s easy to get distracted with visitors, parties and getting that last-minute shopping done, meaning that you may not be able to give a new pet your full attention and all the care they need. There are also lots of pet hazards around at Christmas: decorations and presents can pose a danger to inquisitive animals, who may end up at the vet’s after swallowing paper, ribbon or bows, or getting their paws on harmful food such as chocolate or raisins.
The 2015 PDSA Animal Wellbeing (PAW) Report – the largest survey into pet welfare in the UK– revealed that millions of pets are being bought on a whim, with 4.5 million pet owners doing no research at all before getting a pet. This lack of knowledge can result in lots of problems for our pets as new owners realise exactly how much work they are to look after properly!
The report also reveals that over 1.2 million pets were bought as a present or surprise gifts, a number that has risen sharply since 2012. The recipient is unlikely to be prepared for how much time, money or responsibility being a pet owner involves. The novelty can quickly wear off if the owner is not fully committed to providing a lifetime of care, leading to pets being abandoned.
If you know someone who would love a pet but hasn’t any experience of looking after a four-legged companion, you could get them a brilliant book all about their favourite animal. Then, they can read up on everything that pet needs to live a happy and healthy life and make an informed decision themselves at the right time. Alternatively, sponsoring a pet through an animal charity can also give people that warm, fuzzy feeling as well as helping to support animal welfare causes.
Owning a pet can be rewarding and immensely enjoyable, but it takes a lot of time and dedication. To help you make the right choice, think about if you can provide for five key things all pets need to help them to lead a happy, healthy life: the right environment, diet, to be able to express natural behaviour, the right companionship, and to have their health needs met (which includes regular vet care such as checks, vaccinations, flea and worm treatments, but also one-off costs such as neutering, and emergency care).
Have a lovely Christmas!