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How to Give Pets as Gifts

Corey Kagan Whelan
Dec. 23, 2015

That sweet, sleepy-eyed puppy may make the best present ever, but giving pets as gifts takes some planning. Here are 6 tips to wow with the big reveal.

Imagine running down the stairs on Christmas morning to find a puppy or kitten under the tree -- it's enough to make anyone giddy with excitement! While giving pets as gifts requires some extra thought and consideration, it can make this holiday season one that the recipient will never forget! Just ask Tricia Freeman, a mother of three from Charlotte, Virginia.

"My daughter started asking Santa for a puppy," she explains. "We were ready for a family pet, so my husband and I talked it over and after much planning, decided to do it. We looked for a puppy, ready to come home by Christmas."

Once the plan was in place, it was time for Freeman and her husband to prepare for the day of the big reveal! "We picked [the puppy] up on Christmas Eve morning and took him to my parents' house down the street," she says. "We brought him home later, after the kids were asleep."

That's when things got a bit tricky. "It took a lot of orchestrating trying to hide a puppy on Christmas Eve!" explains Freeman. "He cried all night." The couple decided that the best plan of action would be to keep the puppy as far away from their kids' rooms as possible. "I slept with the kids, but my poor husband spent the entire night with a crying puppy!" says Freeman.

After a crazy night, Christmas morning was upon them. "I came down early and after making sure [the puppy] was fed and toileted, put him in a crate with a big bow," explains Freeman. "When the kids came down, we said, 'There's a puppy in there! Let's open it!' [The kids] were completely surprised and everyone fell in love right away. We left a note from Santa with the dog's name on it -- Deacon -- but we all added more, so the dog wound up with six names. It was the most amazing Christmas surprise ever," says Freeman.

While there are few gifts as special as a new pet, it's important to remember that adding a new member to your family is a big commitment. Freeman and her husband didn't make the decision lightly, and they had to plan out the whole day very carefully to make sure everything went right. The couple had family help to make the surprise work and spent time determining how the long haul would be handled.

Here are six steps you should take before giving a pet as a gift:

  1. Consider the Long-Term Care Required
    Pets need a lot of love and care to live happy, healthy lives. As such, it's important that you don't gift a pet to someone who isn't able to take care of it for the long term.
  2. Get Your Home Ready
    If you're getting your kids or significant other a pet, it's important that you kitty- or puppy-proof your home prior to the day of the reveal. This is an important step to ensure your new pet's safety. Make sure things like electrical cords and outlets are covered and that your houseplants are not poisonous to cats or dogs.
  3. Choose the Pet Wisely
    That adorable puppy may someday morph into a 160-pound dog, which won't be suited to a small apartment. Match the pet to the person receiving it, the type of environment in which he lives and the time he has to care for the animal.

    For example, if you know that it will be a struggle to get your son to walk a dog, it might be a better idea to get him a cat, instead. If there are children around, you also need to take the animal's temperament into account. And don't forget to get the pet neutered, immunized and checked out by a veterinarian before you bring him home.
  4. Have Supplies on Hand
    Just like babies, dogs and cats need lots of stuff. Food, cleaning supplies and other items, like kitty litter, collars and toys, should be part of the gift. Your new friend can't wear that bow forever! If your new pet is a dog, use Your New Puppy Checklist to make sure you haven't forgotten anything.
  5. Set the Stage
    Change, even good change, can be stressful for animals. Since holidays tend to be particularly chaotic, it's important that you go the extra mile to make sure that the pet is kept calm. Like Freeman, you may also need some extra hands on deck to make the surprise happen seamlessly.
  6. Prepare for the Big Moment
    If you decide to "box" the pet, it's crucial that you provide him with plenty of air holes. Of course, you shouldn't keep him in there for too long! You might also want to consider having the animal wait with a chaperon in an enclosed outdoor space, like your backyard. Either way, make sure that you film the big moment so that you can remember it for years to come!

For tips on what kind of canine companion to get your little ones, check out 10 Great Dog Breeds for Children.

Do you have any other tips on giving pets as gifts? Let us know in the comments below!

Corey Kagan Whelan is a freelance writer (and animal lover) living in New York.

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