You’d think that by now, people would know better than to give pets as presents. Unfortunately, common sense isn’t so common. My friend learned this the hard way, when a teacher gave his daughter a hamster as a Christmas gift without so much as informing him and his wife. They were understandably annoyed, since they weren’t ready for a pet. But their daughter loved the hamster and had already named it Maya, so they kept it and cared for it.
Just four days later, they saw that Maya’s intestine had prolapsed, so my friend wound up spending his one day off taking Maya to the vet for surgery. Her chances of survival weren’t good, so he found himself wondering how to explain the concept of death to his three year-old daughter. While Maya made it through the surgery, she passed away two days later. Thankfully my friend's daughter didn’t take it so hard—it was actually he and his wife who had gotten attached to Maya and felt her loss the most.
While Maya was well-cared for by the family she was so unceremoniously thrust upon, not all animals are as lucky. Some pets are welcomed by the family at the beginning—after all, puppies and kittens are just so darn cute. But once the family realizes how much work it actually takes to keep a pet, the poor creature usually ends up at an animal shelter or worse, abandoned along the side of a road.
Getting a pet is like adopting a child—it’s a decision that should only be made by the family, and they most certainly shouldn’t be given as a surprise. Caring for pets is time-consuming and costly: on top of feeding and training them, you have to regularly take them to the vet for shots. As they reach old age, they’ll invariably develop a bunch of illnesses you have to give them medicines for and might even need a surgery or two, until you have to decide whether it would be more humane to put them to sleep.
Getting a pet is like adopting a child—it’s a decision that should only be made by the family, and they most certainly shouldn’t be given as a surprise.
Pets make such wonderful companions that all of this is ultimately be worth it, if you've chosen to get one yourself. On top of that, it’s important to choose a breed whose temperament and energy level matches your lifestyle. The last thing you should do is get your couch potato friend a dalmatian. If your mom prefers peace and quiet and treasures the flowers in her garden, then getting her a dachshund (which was bred to dig into badgers’ dens) is a terrible idea.
This Christmas, if you know someone who—in spite of all the animal rights campaigns over the years—is still planning to give a pet as a present, do the poor creature and the family a favor by talking that person out of it.