With the season to be jolly upon us, animal lovers might be tempted to share their joy by putting a puppy or kitten under the Christmas tree. However, PD Insurance is advising Kiwis to avoid the urge unless 100 percent sure it’s the right gift to give.
The pet insurer says companion animals represent a decades-plus commitment of love and attention. They also come at a not-inconsiderable cost to their owner.
“Our advice is to not give a pet as a gift unless you’re sure the receiver can provide the care the animal deserves. Once the novelty has worn off it can and does result in pets being sent to shelters, or even worse,” says Michelle Le Long, PD Insurance Head of NZ Operations.
HUHA NZ says it receives almost 100 calls per month from Kiwis wanting assistance from the shelter because they need to give up a pet. This number increases after Christmas, when new pet parents realise the additional costs and level of commitment involved.
HUHA founder Carolyn Press McKenzie advises, “People busting to give someone a pet should consider giving a gift voucher from an animal shelter instead. Any good shelter will refund them if the gift recipient realises they’re not ready to own a pet after being taken through the adoption process.”
Le Long continues, “We urge anyone considering giving a pet as a Christmas present to carefully think through any pitfalls as well as the many positives. Especially if the recipient of the pet isn’t in your immediate family – then, the risks of issues down the line are amplified.”
1. Pets are for life
Expect cats and dogs to be part of the family for the better part of 20 years. “As a gift, pets not only keep giving, they keep taking. The give and take lasts a long time,” says Le Long. “That’s especially clear when you consider the lifetime cost of owning a pet.”
2. Pets need training and care
Dogs and cats are not toys; they have a mind of their own. Dogs need substantial training and regular exercise, and both cats and dogs need plenty of affection and attention. If the pet gift recipient isn’t prepared to make the effort, the pet will suffer.
3. Pets cost money
Just like humans need a doctor’s visit every so often, so do pets. In an emergency, such costs can skyrocket. And costs are significant even when vet bills aren’t taken into account. Recent PD Insurance research shows the most common spend on pets each year, excluding vet bills - food, toys, boarding, grooming, etc. - is $500-$1,000 (34% of respondents), followed by less than $500 (28%) then $1,000-$2,500 (24%).
Multiply those annual costs by 20 then add vet bills - which are significantly higher if an owner doesn’t have pet insurance - and the lifetime cost of a pet becomes clearer.
4. Expect lifestyle changes
Did we mention pets need attention? This means the lifestyle of a new pet owner will change. “We call our pets fur babies for a reason because, just like children, they need care,” notes Le Long. That includes no more spur-of-the-moment shooting away for a weekend. First, book a sitter or place at the kennels or cattery. And bring a wallet.
5. Renting? Pets just made it harder
If you give a pet to a person who rents, it could make life a whole lot harder for them. “Most rentals have a ‘no pets’ policy. Finding accommodation is harder for pet owners; bear this in mind before considering gifting a pet. Also consider the gift of pet insurance along with it, to cover damage the pet may cause to the property,” says Le Long.
6. Fluffy wants a brush
Part of the reason landlords don’t like pets is because they can be messy. Pet owners know grooming and cleaning up after their fur baby is part of the deal. Does the potential recipient of a gifted pet know what’s required? And are they prepared to take on the work as well as the love and cuddles?
7. Not to be sneezed at
Plenty of folks have allergies. Some to cats and dogs. Even if they’re not the direct recipient of a gifted pet, others in the household could get the sniffles or more. “Be aware of this reality,” says Le Long. “It could adversely affect home harmony.”
8. Getting the snip
Most pets are desexed. Many animals can be a handful if not and unexpected litters can make life very difficult – another factor to bear in mind if the idea of a pet present crosses your mind. Perhaps consider getting it desexed before putting a big red bow on.
9. If you absolutely insist…
Of course, all these reasons might pass muster for someone who really wants a pup or kitty for Christmas and is fully aware of the level and scale of commitment. If that’s the case, consider adopting a pet from a shelter like HUHA. Many fur babies need homes. This could be your chance to save a life, avoiding animal farms and puppy scams.
10. Don’t get it wrong
With tens of thousands of abandoned animals going into shelters every year, the truly sad thing is that some started life as a gifted pet. Bringing them into a caring family is one of the greatest presents you can give - to the recipient and to the pet. However, giving a pet to someone unprepared to put in the time, money and effort to fully experience the joy of a fur baby can have severe consequences for the animal. Be sure your gift will receive ample love and care, and it will no doubt give the same in return.