- Giving your child a pet for the holidays might seem like a good idea, but it could cause you more trouble than you expected.
- Trying to introduce your pet to your home and family is already a big task and doing that during the holidays will just be even more stressful than it needs to be.
- Your kids might not be ready for the responsibility that comes with having a new pet, particularly if they think of their pet as a toy and not a living creature.
If you’re still trying to figure out what to get your kids for the holidays, the thought of adopting a pet might seem tempting. An adorable puppy or kitten under the tree might seem like the perfect gift, but it could end up causing you more trouble than you expected.
Unless you’ve planned and thought through all the implications of adopting a pet – during the holidays, no less – it might just be wiser to get your kids something else this year.
Here are nine reasons to consider why you shouldn’t give your kids a pet for the holidays and should go with a gift certificate instead.
The holidays are too overwhelming and they will be overwhelming for your new pet, too
Between relatives coming into town, special meals to cook, and presents to wrap, the holidays are a stressful time. Bringing a new pet into the mix will just make it that much more overwhelming for you, and your pet will certainly not be immune to the stress either.
Dog expert Cesar Milan says you should slowly introduce your new pet to the house and family – something that could be difficult to do during the holidays with so many other things going on.
“The idea is that you slowly introduce your new dog to her new place, one room at a time, and you should begin with the room where she will find her food and water, making her wait until you have gone through the door and invited her in,” Milan says in his book.
Holiday decorations can be harmful or dangerous to a curious puppy or kitten
One of the joys of the holidays is having a nicely decorated house, but those decorations could be hazardous for a pet curious in a new home.
Holiday plants can be quite dangerous, according to American Humane: lilies can be deadly to cats, poinsettias can upset animals’ digestive systems, mistletoe is toxic, and holly can cause vomiting and diarrhoea. Even pine needles can be toxic if your pet eats them.
You also have to be careful of candles, tinsel, ornament wires, and stagnant Christmas tree water, the ASPCA warns.
Pets are living animals and not toys
Pets shouldn’t be thought of in the same way as a new toy, according to veterinarian Dr. Karen Becker.
“It’s important to impress upon a child the difference between her belongings and her pet, from the very first minute a new dog or cat enters her life,”Dr. Becker wrote.
“Even if your youngster is pleading for a pet and you think he or she is old enough to take on the responsibility, I recommend you keep the ‘pet project’ separate from the holiday festivities.”
You have to carefully supervise your kids and pets at all times
You can’t leave your children alone with a new pet until your children have been taught the proper amount of respect they should have for animals and your pet has gotten used to your children, according to the Animal Humane Society.
“Animals must be treated gently and handled with care. Young children must never be left alone or unsupervised, with any animal, even for a moment. Although children can participate in light-care activities like grooming and playtime, a parent must be fully prepared to be the primary caretaker,” the organisation warns.
It’s much harder to constantly supervise your children and any new pets during the holidays when there are relatives in town and lots of things to do.
Your kids may not be ready for the responsibility
Adopting a pet is a big responsibility and your children might not be ready for it. The ASPCA advises you should be prepared to take full responsibility of the pet if your kids are under 12 years old.
And according to PETA’s website: “Dogs need outdoor exercise every single day, and a huge time investment is required to train (and house-train) a puppy – children are not mature enough to handle this responsibility.”
Pets change your life and shouldn’t be a surprise to your kids
Adopting a pet changes whole life, from scheduling walks to pet-proofing your home and making sure your pet gets fed and watered every day. Even if a pet is something your kids say they want, they should be fully prepared for added responsibility and changing routines.
They should be warned in advance about what they will be expected to do and how their lives will change, instead of surprised on Christmas morning.
“In my experience, it’s best to let a prospective pet owner, no matter what age, be very engaged every step of the way in selecting a new pet and preparing in advance for the homecoming,” Dr. Becker wrote.
It’s important for pets to have good chemistry with their owners
The San Diego Humane Society recommends you should “actively involve the pet parent-to-be in the selection process”, which includes your children.
Madeline Bernstein, the president of SPCA Los Angeles also suggests that chemistry with your prospective pet is incredibly important.
“People have a preconceived idea of what they want and they almost never leave with that,” Bernstein told WRAL.com.
Your children should be part of the deciding process and if you surprise them with a pet over the holidays, they might not mesh as well with the new addition to the family.
You have to make sure no one in your family is allergic to the pet before you take it home
If you haven’t had a pet in the house before, you might now know if you or your children are allergic. Discovering an allergy after you’ve adopted a pet may mean you’ll have to take it back, which can be hard on the animal.
“Some people don’t realise that they are allergic to animals until the animal is already in their care,” according to PETA.
Animal Planet recommends spending time with pets of friends or family or going to an allergist before adopting a pet if you don’t know whether you’re allergic to pets.
Training a new pet during the cold winter months is more difficult than in the spring or summer
Dr. Becker recommends waiting until the spring or summer to adopt a pet, because the cold and wet of the winter can make house training more miserable. It’s also a less-ideal time because your kids will be going back to school soon after the holidays.
“Without school and related activities to distract them, they will have time to bond with a new pet, help with house and obedience training chores, feeding, litter box duty, accident clean-ups, playtime, dog walking, etc.,” she wrote.
There are ways that you can “give them a pet” this year with a low risk
If you’re still determined to get your child a pet for the holidays, you should consider giving them a gift certificate for a shelter or an “adoption kit” with a leash, pet bed, and other pet supplies, which gives the promise of a pet without the stress of actually introducing an animal into your lives during the holidays.
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