Many of us in our childhood dreamed of a puppy or kitten popping out of a box on Christmas morning. As perfect as the image may seem, it is highly debated if Santa should be filling his sleigh with four-legged friends.
The major concern is that these pets that are given as gifts, commonly called “present pets,” would be at higher risk of being returned because the owner would not be prepared for such a responsibility. This stigma has caused shelters around the country not to allow their animals to be adopted near the holidays.
In 2013, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) released findings that show 96 percent of people who received pets as gifts thought it either increased or had no impact on their love or attachment to that pet. In addition, the organization said driving customers away from shelters may steer them toward inhumane sources such as online or backyard breeders.
I took to social media to have some Hawaii residents share their present pet experiences.
Kevin (Aiea): We were never allowed to have pets growing up other than fish and two little turtles. My friends knew how much I wanted a puppy. When I turned 18 they gave me a puppy for my birthday. It turned out that my father played with her the most, especially when I went away to college.
John (Wahiawa): I kept talking about how I always wanted a cat and my girlfriend picked up on it. So, when I came from home from work (on my birthday) there was a little kitten in the house, she bought for me. I had her for 16 years.
Rick (Ewa Beach): I expressed to my friend that I was thinking of getting a dog but was hesitant about the idea. One night my friend asked me to meet up with her. She said she had something for me. The new puppy had a red bow, like a Christmas present, on his collar. I was taken aback at first, but very happy! It was very tough raising [my dog] as a pup but I learned a lot and I feel like I have grown as a person.
Loryn (Honolulu): My almost-mother in law called us on Christmas and asked if we wanted a shitzu puppy. And if we did in fact want the puppy, that was our Christmas present. I took one look at her- as big as my hand- and couldn’t not take her! She, in turn, became my longest relationship outside of my family. Best gift I’ve ever been given in my life.
You may also want to go with the option of a smaller pet that may require less responsibility. For example:
Birds – Feathered pets can be brightly colored and fascinating additions to the family. Many people prefer the convenience of cleaning a bird cage once daily to scooping a litter box or having to go for walks outside every few hours.
Fish – Fish are great pets for people with pet allergies and have shown to produce calming effects for their owners.
Pocket Pets (mice, rats, guinea pigs, rabbits) – Owners find them just as cuddly and friendly as cats or dogs and offer the same bond and companionship. Unlike cats or dogs, they do not require vaccination.
Pocket pet or full size, the ASPCA recommends only giving a present pet to people who have expressed a sustained interest in owning one and who have the ability to care for the pet responsibly.
Have you ever received a present pet? Good or bad, I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments below.