So, You Want a Pet for the Holidays

November 2017

article by katie jones backer | photo courtesy of Kristin Jean Photographer

Did you grow up watching the Christmas scene from Lady and the Tramp? You may remember your heart utterly melting when you saw Jim Dear give his wife the adorable puppy wrapped in a bow! Maybe you even grew a little teary-eyed? Come on; I know that wasn't just me!

Stories like Lady’s have influenced our culture into thinking a pet for Christmas is unique and makes for a fun surprise. A pet during the holidays, though a sweet sentiment, can come with a wave of complications. Therefore, we want to make sure you have considered the reality of having a new pet for Christmas¾ in Montana! Think frigid temperatures, SNOW, and ice-slicked streets… A pet isn't just a cute Disney character; this is a real animal in need of actual care. Don't get me wrong, there is NOTHING better than having an adoring pet who loves you unconditionally, but you want to make sure you have the animal’s best interest at heart.

Many pets are given each year as gifts, and some, unfortunately, meet an unhappy end when they end up at a shelter due to an ill-prepared recipient. If done right, pets as gifts can have a lasting place in one’s home and heart. According to the ASPCA Position on pets as gifts, “The ASPCA recommends the giving of pets as gifts only to people who have expressed a sustained interest in owning one, and the ability to care for it responsibly. We also recommend that pets be obtained from animal shelters, rescue organizations, friends, family, or responsible breeders”.

*So, are you capable of handling a new pet at Christmas? Here is a checklist to find out!

→Have you determined who the recipient is, and has that person expressed an actual interest in this pet?

Guys, not to pick on you alone, but if you’re thinking of giving your girlfriend a pet, make sure she ACTUALLY wants one! (And if she does, she may also want to pick it out)!

Also, if buying a pet for a child, who will realistically be the pet’s caretaker? A young child can’t do it all, so make sure you’re up for the task.

→Do you have adequate space in the home for the pet, as well as time to spend with your newest addition?

Our long winter months can leave even the best of us feeling cooped up and restless. Imagine the boundless energy of a puppy! Is there room in your home for pet beds, toys, and space to play if the snowy yard is less than appealing? With icy streets, getting out for a daily walk or run with your new pup might not be feasible. Those small footpads aren't ready for the extreme temps that we can get here in Montana.

Also, make sure you have a safe, designated area for the pet. Away from anything you do not want their little teeth or claws getting into. And remember to keep those Christmas candies up high and out of reach from your curious, exploratory pets.

→Pet ownership goes beyond the joy of Christmas Day. Are you prepared for the Vet (and associated fees) that come with pets?

Within a kitten or puppy’s first year, there are typically vaccines and the recommended process of spaying/neutering. These fees can add up. If thinking about these costs makes your pulse quicken, you may want to reconsider. Food, obedience classes (if desired), and medical fees are all a part of responsible pet parenting.

→And then there’s the "P-Word." Are you ready for some winter potty training?

Be prepared to shovel the snow from your backyard to expose the grass for your young pupil. It's either that or "Potty Training Pads," which you can use indoors. They can be useful for some, but your home may take on a distinct odor that's a far cry from the Pumpkin Spice, and Douglas Fir scents your guests may prefer.

If, after considering the points above, you still feel strongly about your gift idea, this may be a perfect time to take on another family member! Congratulations!

With winter being a tough time for training and socializing your dog, consider obedience classes. There are many local programs including Prison Paws, which offers training out of the Montana Women’s Prison (Contact the Prison Paws Program at 406.247.5162).

Another excellent option to keep in mind is adopting a senior dog or cat. November is National Adopt a Senior Pet Month. So often these older animals are overlooked in the shelters and can run the risk of being euthanized. Consider giving the gift of the season to an older dog or cat too. Not only will you be helping them have a "forever home," but you'll also skip over that tricky puppy or kitten stage!

Originally printed in the pages of Simply Family Magazine’s November 2017 issue.

Never miss an issue, check out SFM’s digital editions, here