Editor’s Note: Stick to tamagotchi if you can’t take care of a real pet
Different holidays seem to inspire people to buy or adopt animals as gifts, often to the detriment of their unexpectedly time-consuming four-legged purchases.
Easter sees an increase in pet-store bought bunnies and chicks, while Christmas seems to fuel people’s desires to buy puppies and kittens when The Bay and Walmart just won’t do for someone’s (usually a kid’s) wishlist.
I’m not necessarily saying that every person who buys their family member or significant other a pet for Christmas is automatically dooming them to be a terrible pet parent.
However, it’s worth noting that there often isn’t a whole lot of thought put into the responsibility that a pet requires after the video of your girlfriend or child sobbing over the puppy that was in the moving box goes viral and is featured on Ellen.
After the initial joy and excitement passes from receiving a new animal on Christmas Day, you’re left with a living creature that will need attention, upkeep and various amounts of money put into looking after it for the next 10 plus years of its life.
Many people don’t consider this when plopping a cute puppy with a bow around its neck in front of the Christmas tree like it’s a scene from Lady and the Tramp and simply call it a day when that part is done.
Parents seem to often use pet gifting as a tool to teach responsibility to their children. And while it’s well-intentioned, people still have to keep in mind that kids are still kids. Sure, they can claim it as their own by giving it a name like Crackers and help look after it by taking it out for a walk, scooping food in their bowl or cleaning out their cage — but they’re not completely formed human beings yet.
They are often forgetful and still don’t have the ability to fully look after the pet they were given.
I grew up around friends whose parents would buy them hamsters, fish, guinea pigs, etc. — the so-called “easy” pets associated with childhood. But, they would inevitably get bored of them or neglect to completely look after their animal in some way or another until it died.
Now, the “lesson” here shouldn’t be that the parent is omitted from responsibility because their child forgot to change the water for their hamster.
A pet shouldn’t have to suffer so that you can tell your kid “I told you so” while you’re burying it in the backyard.
The same can be said for university students who want to train service dogs or get their own dog while they’re in school. I’m not saying that this is never possible, but training service dogs takes a lot of time, effort and dedication. And as for your own dog goes, navigating that responsibility with student housing, rooommates and busy schedules can be more difficult than you originally expect.
Owning pets isn’t always cheap, and as much as I would love to respond to every adoption notice I see that tugs on my heart strings, I need to recognize my personal limitations as a pet owner.
Don’t be one of the people who has to return a pet they adopted or post notices on Kijiji because you took on an animal without really thinking it through.
Local animal shelters are faced with enough challenges without having to worry about the influx of animals that are dumped on their doorsteps during the holidays.
If you really want a pet or someone you know does, just make sure you do the proper research and have the means to care for it before gifting someone a furry friend.