Pets: a Choice, not a Surprise

For anyone considering giving a pet as a present, please think twice!

Despite clear animal welfare advice, pets are still given as gifts. Find out why this is such a bad idea, and consider some fun alternatives that are better for the recipient and the pet.

pets a choice not a surprise

Pets: a Choice, not a Surprise

A cute new pet may seem like the perfect present, but buying a pet for someone else, especially if they are not aware, can cause a number of issues. A surprise pet often ends up as an unhappy or unwanted pet, as well as causing sadness and stress to the family.

Giving a pet as a gift on any occasion perpetuates the idea that they are a one-off item rather than a long term commitment. No reputable rescue centre would allow an animal to be adopted as a surprise gift for someone else, and for good reason.

We’re going to take a look at the different factors to consider and offer some alternatives to buying a pet as a gift.

An Unwanted Surprisekitten in a gift box

Owning a pet is a big responsibility and once the initial surprise has worn off it may leave the owner wondering if they actually wanted a new pet. A new cat, especially a kitten, takes up a lot of time that they will not have been able to plan for.

Other pets and family members must also be taken into account, as they may not be ready for, or want a sudden new arrival.

There are also plenty of other things to consider such as space, cleaning, costs and change of lifestyles. Cats can live for more than 20 years - does the recipient want a 20-year commitment that they didn’t plan for?

Unplanned Costs

Pets are expensive. While the cost of food and toys may not seem that high, there are many other financial aspects you should consider. If you have bought a pet from a breeder you will need to get them neutered and microchipped. There are also monthly flea and worming costs, not to mention expensive veterinary bills for any injuries or illnesses that can occur in the future. Sadly, cats purchased from private sellers often come from less than reputable backgrounds, meaning there could be health concerns you are not aware of.

Battersea Dogs & Cats Home estimate that the typical annual cost of keeping a cat is around £1000 per year. According to the PSDA, a cat can cost between £12K and £24K during its lifetime (and that doesn't include any vet bills not covered by insurance, or cattery fees!).

Pets for Children

Children especially can get bored with a new pet very quickly, so once the novelty has worn off their new companion might become more of an inconvenience. If you are considering getting a pet for a child, in reality the animal is your (or the child’s family’s) responsibility - for the whole of that animal’s life.

Learning about adoption and pet ownership is a really important lesson for children, so you could instead give an “animal sponsorship” as a gift, to help a shelter animal, or a book about how to care for a cat / dog / rabbit etc. The child, and their family can then decide if they are ready to take on the responsibility of caring for a pet. If they are, the child can then have the added thrill of helping to choose which animal to adopt into the household when the time is right.

Perfect Personalities

Finding the right pet for your family is really important - this is why the adoption process is so in-depth. Buying a cat from a private seller does not guarantee that their personality will match your family.

Animals are all individuals, with distinct characters and needs. Therefore the idea of gifting ‘a cat’ or ‘a dog’ does a great disservice to both the animal and the intended owner. It really is only the person themselves who can truly decide which individual pet is the right one for them and their lifestyle. After all, they will become a lifelong family member.

Searching for the right cat to adopt and become part of your family is a really fun process. Rehoming organisations are very careful to match each animal to the right home, so taking this route will really pay off in the long run.

Christmas Presentspets a choice not a surprise xmas

Over the Christmas period, many people have changed routines. They may spend more time at home, meaning once life gets back to normal their new pet doesn’t get the time and care they require. Unless you have a particularly quiet home, Christmas is possibly the worst time to introduce a new pet, as homes are often noisier and more chaotic, which can be highly stressful for the animal.

Most rescue centres and charities pause homing activities over the Christmas period to avoid any stressful situations for new pets. Instead, consider giving a ‘Pet Promise’…

Make a ‘Pet Promise’ instead

Rather than gifting an actual animal, a better idea is to create a new pet kit or ‘Pet Promise Pack’ by filling a box with essentials for their new pet such as food, litter, bedding and toys. You could also include cute pictures of cats / dogs etc, information about local rescue centres or a home-made voucher towards adoption fees or pet insurance.

This gives the new owner plenty of time to consider if they are ready to take on this new responsibility. If they really do want a pet, the ‘promise pack’ will enable them to prepare, and to be involved in choosing the right animal for them, at the right time.

Helping - Not Hindering - Animal Rescues

Often, an unexpected pet given as a gift will soon outstay their welcome, and are then given up to a rescue centre. This is not only unfair on the animal, but also puts more pressure on shelters whose resources are often already stretched.

By gifting an ‘animal sponsorship’ or ‘pet promise’ instead, you are giving the recipient the time to plan properly for the costs, time and other responsibilities involved in pet ownership.

Adopting a rescue pet is always the best choice, for many reasons. So, your gift could encourage adoption, by giving a ‘promise’ to pay for the adoption fee. Plus, a cat or dog adopted from a rehoming centre will already have had a health check, been neutered and treated for fleas and worms.

Happy Pet & Happy Owner

A new pet can change someone’s life, but please make sure it’s changed in a good way! A well prepared new home is much more likely to result in a happy pet - and a happy owner.

Pets should be a carefully considered choice… and definitely not a surprise!

More Information:

Why Rescue? (and why not to buy)
Bringing a New Cat into your Home
Cat Introductions & Hierarchies
New Cat? - Dog & Cat Introductions
Cat Rescue & Adoption Centres, UK & Ireland

Contributor: Ella Street, Cat Chat Blogger
Published: November 2020