5 Tips Before Buying a Pet as a Gift

Be Prepared Before Making a Decision

Thinking of giving or getting a new pet this holiday season?

While there are plenty of pets who need a good home, make sure yours — or the recipient of the pet — is ready for the demands and responsibilities of caring for a critter companion.

Here are five important tips to consider before surprising someone with the gift of a pet:

1. Make sure the recipient wants a pet and is financially prepared

Be careful to give a pet as an unexpected gift to a family member or a friend. Pets require a considerable investment of both time and money and aren’t right for everyone. Consider a different time of year rather than the holidays when everyone is very busy and may not have the time to properly welcome a pet into their home.

2. Don’t buy a pet on an impulse

Pets on sale at shopping mall pet stores may look cute, but they tend to be stressed, immune suppressed and may come from a pet mill with questionable breeding practices. If you’re serious about buying a pet, do your research and find a responsible breeder, shelter or a rescue group.

3. Consider adopting an older pet or fostering a pet

Golden retriever

Pet rescue groups are always looking for responsible people to provide foster pet homes on a short-term or long-term basis until they can find them a "forever home." If you’re thinking of giving a pet as a gift to a child, consider other options: fish, turtles, mice, rabbits and guinea pigs are all excellent, easy and economical choices that kids can enjoy and love without creating much of an impact to a daily routine.

4. Create a toxic- and danger-free home for pets

Household toxins can threaten the lives of curious pets. Make sure all household chemicals, human medicinespoisonous houseplants and breakables are out of reach. Pet-safe electrical cord covers are available at most hardware stores. Many holiday decorations like tinsel, mistletoe, wrapping paper and table decorations can be dangerous to a pet’s health, and certain foods, including chocolateraisins and some nuts can be lethal to pets. Establish safe zone in the house where the new pet can peacefully relax and sleep.

5. Choose a local veterinarian

Puppy with veterinarian

Choosing a veterinarian is the first step in ensuring a pet’s well-being. Puppies and kittens need a series of vaccinations, so make sure you get any records containing the pet's history — this will help a veterinarian determine exactly which vaccinations are needed.

Regardless of where you acquire your new pet, or what the seller says, always take it to see your personal veterinarian within the first week of bringing your pet home. Also, locate the nearest emergency veterinary hospital that is open 24/7 if your veterinarian does not offer around-the-clock service.