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Remember Pets Are for Life as You Start Christmas Shopping

10 November 2014

ANALYSIS - The excitement of Halloween and Bonfire Night seems like a distant memory and no doubt people are turning their attention to the next big event - Christmas.

It's the one time of year where many people adopt a rose-tinted attitude to gifts, often spending a little more than usual on a present for a child or loved one.

However, it is important to remember the investment you are making if you choose to buy a cat or dog as a Christmas present.

christmas catAnimal rehoming centres have become so used to seeing abandoned animals after Christmas, that many of them refuse to rehome pets in the final weeks of December.

Come January, rehoming centres are inundated with dogs tied up outside and calls about stray cats who have simply been abandoned in the belief that they can fend for themselves.

“We all know the expression ‘a dog is for life, not just for Christmas’ but people continue to buy pets as gifts at this time of year,” said PDSA Senior Veterinary Surgeon, Elaine Pendlebury.

“We see the results of unwise pet choices every year, and it often starts when someone decides to get a pet as a present.

“This is never a good idea because buying a pet is a serious commitment. Pets can make a wonderful addition to a home, but people need to think carefully to avoid making mistakes which can prove very costly, both emotionally and financially, for pets and owners alike.”

Based on years of experience, PDSA vets have identified the most common reasons why people buy a pet as a Christmas gift:

1. “I want one. Oh please!”
All parents understand pester power.Children are very persuasive when they have their heart set on a pet. It’s natural to want to please them but this should not cloud the realities of pet ownership. And remember, children under 16 aren’t legally responsible for meeting the pet’s needs – adults are.

2. “It will teach children responsibility.”
A good intention but children can lose interest quickly. Parents are then left with the daily responsibility of checking the hamster’s water bottle or cleaning out the rabbit hutch.

3. “It will be good company for Grandad”
Grandad might not want the company. Besides, the average lifespan of the pet needs to be considered. Dogs and cats can easily live to 15 or over - and some pets, such as parrots, live as long as we do.

4. “It’s so cute!”
Puppies and kittens grow up and may not stay cute! More importantly, never forget that pets are living beings, not accessories. They need time and commitment as well as money spent on them. Pet ownership involves costs and responsibilities such as microchipping, neutering, vaccinations, worming and flea treatments. Vets bills and pet insurance need to be considered as well as the cost of cattery and kennel fees when owners go on holiday.

5. “A rabbit won’t need much looking after.”
Wrong! Despite being the UK’s third most popular pet, the welfare needs of domestic rabbits are widely misunderstood. Most are forced to live alone whereas they really need the company of another rabbit. Many are fed an inappropriate diet with not enough fibre which can lead to painful dental disease. Over 80% are kept in hutches that are too small – consider that in the wild, rabbits have a home territory that can be the size of 30 tennis courts!

6. “A dog is good for protection.”
A family dog should be chosen for companionship and suitability in the normal household environment and not solely for the purposes of protection. Dogs used for protection can be a danger to others and themselves.

7. “I just love this breed.”
You may like the look of a particular breed of dog, but do you know what it needs for a healthy happy life? Some breeds need at least two hours exercise every day. Can you provide that? Some breeds may be prone to particular health problems, which can be very distressing, not to mention expensive.

8. “I can give a good home to a rescue dog.”
A fine sentiment. But before getting a pet, owners need to consider the following four-step PETS formula to ensure they and their pets are well matched:
Place – which type of pet is appropriate for where you live?
Exercise – can you provide the type and amount of daily exercise required?
Time – can you devote enough time to your pet?
Spend – can you afford the lifetime expense of your preferred pet?

9. “We already have a cat. It would benefit from a companion.”
Always think carefully before getting a new cat to accompany an existing one. Cats often prefer to be kept on their own and can become stressed if another pet is introduced to the household.

10. “I’m working and can afford a pet.”
Have you considered what would happen if your circumstances changed? All pets cost money so it’s important to be able to afford to look after them. But an owner’s time is just as important. Dogs shouldn’t be left alone for long periods of time and boredom can cause dogs to be destructive in the house. Providing their daily exercise takes time. So does training to ensure your dog behaves properly in public.

Providing for your pet is not only right, it is now a legal requirement. According to the Animal Welfare Act, animal owners must ensure five key needs are met:

  • A suitable environment
  • A suitable diet
  • To be able to perform normal behaviour
  • To live with, or apart from, other animals (depending on the type of animal)
  • To be protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease

Elaine Pendlebury added: “Christmas is quite possibly the worse time to get a pet as it’s so busy and noisy. You really need a quiet, calm time when you can dedicate yourself and your time to the needs of your new pet and provide a less stressful environment for your new family member to settle into.

“While puppies and kittens are cute, they are a big commitment and the responsibility may not actually be welcome by the recipient, meaning the new pet risks abandonment or rehoming. At any time of year, we urge people to think carefully before buying a pet - particularly as a gift for someone at Christmas.”

Gemma Hyland, Editor

Gemma Hyland, Editor

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