Are the holidays a good time to get a pet?
The festive period is filled with fun and excitement, but that doesn’t necessarily make it the right time to bring a new pet home. Here are just a few reasons why:
- It’s a very busy time of year: Most of us have time off work for the holidays, so it might seem like the ideal time to bring a new member into the family. But that time is often filled with shopping trips, visiting friends and family, parties and noise – new pets need your time, a calm environment and routine to help them settle in.
- Christmas hazards: There are lots of extra hazards for pets at Christmas, including decorations, sparkling lights, festive foods and poisonous plants. Read our Christmas Survival guide to find out more about keeping your pets safe at Christmas.
- Is it the holiday talking? For many different reasons, the joy and happiness of the festive season often drives people to get new pets. But, if you are considering rehoming or buying a pet at any time of year, it’s important to remember that they are a lifelong commitment – a pet really is for life, not just for Christmas. Our advice on choosing the right pet will help you decide what pet – if any – suit your lifestyle.
Ideally, it’s best to wait until the holidays are over before getting a new pet. This will give you time to prepare for their arrival, help them avoid all the festive hazards, and allow you to give them your full attention when they arrive. However, if your new addition is already home, or there is a reason why you can’t wait until after Christmas, here are a few things you can do to ensure they have a smooth introduction.
- Routine: As much as possible, try to stick to your usual routine instead of making lots of Christmas plans. Ensure any social plans you already have fit around your pet – you may need to keep your festive period a little quieter than usual to make sure they feel settled and calm for their first few weeks in your home.
- Quiet time: Avoid having lots of visitors and loud noises at home – it might be overwhelming and scary for your new pet if they’ve only been with you a short time.
- Safety first: Be extra careful to keep your new arrival away from any festive hazards and toxic foods.
Buying pets as presents
Christmas is a time for giving – but we don’t recommend that pets are given as surprise gifts.
One of the most important parts of choosing a pet is making sure you choose the right animal(s) for you, and just as importantly, ensuring you are right for them. By choosing for someone else, there is a risk that you might choose an unsuitable pet – one that they can’t afford or have time for. Even if you have the best intentions, and do lots of research, it’s very difficult to know every detail of someone else’s life and responsibilities. Giving a pet as an unexpected gift might feel nice, but it could leave your loved one feeling stressed and overwhelmed.
If you are considering buying a pet as a gift, discuss it with the recipient beforehand. By involving them in the decision, you can make sure they are ready for the commitment, have time to get their home ready, and you can pick their new best friend together.
If you do chose to surprise someone with a pet, you need to be prepared for the possibility that the new owner may not be able to care for it. Consider what you would do if this happened and be prepared to take on responsibility for the pet yourself or find it a loving, forever home.
Buying your kids a pet for Christmas
In the right situation, pets are great for children and children are great for pets – they can have lots of fun, keep each other company, and be an excellent way for you to teach them about caring. However, while having a family pet can bring many positives, buying a pet for your child over the festive period is not usually the best time, because:
- The novelty often wears off quickly: Once the reality of the responsibility hits, they might find that caring for their furry friend day in day out isn’t as much fun as they thought. It’s also important to remember that even if you buy a pet for your child, the law states that an adult must be legally responsible for their care.
- Christmas is a busy time of year: Arriving at a new home is stressful for a new pet, but as Christmas is so busy, it has the potential to be even more stressful. It’s also important to be aware that your pet might struggle to adapt to another new routine once the festive period is over.
- Choosing is fun: Buying a pet as a gift for your children will mean that they miss out on the enjoyment of helping to choose their new friend. Why not wait until after the holidays are over, and then involve them in the excitement of getting ready to welcome home a new pet?
If you are still keen to buy a pet for your kids over Christmas, do plenty of research and make sure you check out our PetWise quiz to make sure you pick the right pet for your family.
What to get your kids instead of a pet
If a pet is on your child’s Christmas list, but it isn’t the right choice for you, we’ve put together some alternatives that might bring a smile to their faces:
- A book about their chosen pet: A book can help them do some research about the pet they want – the good and the bad (like picking up dog poop!) – which will help them understand all of the responsibilities that come with being an owner.
- A toy version of the pet they want: From soft toys to electronic animals, there are lots of toy ‘pets’ available that need to be ‘looked after’. This works particularly well for young children, fuelling their imagination and giving them something to love and care for that doesn’t have real life needs.
- Sponsor an animal: Sponsoring a pet treated by PDSA helps to pay for sick and injured pets to get the help they need from our vets.
- Visit a conservation park or reputable zoo: Tickets are a great gift for animal loving kids and mean they can look at and experience lots of different animals, without needing to bring one home.