The idea of finding a puppy or kitten in a bow waiting for you feels magical—but is it responsible? There are important questions you need to ask before surprising anyone with a pet as a gift.
Checklist for Gifting a Pet
Animal shelters and rescue organizations are very familiar with well-meaning friends and family coming in to find a surprise pet for a loved one. Whether it’s a grandparent getting their grandchild their first pet, someone bringing home a pet for their partner, or an adult child trying to find a new pet for an older parent who recently lost their companion, they’re always trying to do something kind! However, being a responsible pet owner comes with the huge responsibility of caring for that pet.
Before you even start looking for a dog or cat, make sure you can confidently answer “yes” to all of these questions on behalf of person you’re planning on gifting that pet to:
- Do they really want a pet? Have they been talking consistently and realistically about how much they want to adopt a pet and how they can imagine that pet fitting into their life?
- Do you know their lifestyle and energy level? Not everyone has the time and energy to keep up with a young, high-energy animal—or any pet at all. Low-energy folks might be a good match for a mature pet, while workaholics who are gone all day might just be better plant parents (and that’s okay)!
- Do they have the resources to commit to a pet? Costs for food, toys, litter boxes, vet bills, and more can stack up over time. Space is also a major commodity, especially for people living in a studio apartment.
- Can they make a long-term commitment? Even if they want a pet right now, where will they be next year? How about five years from now? Students, people whose job requires frequent moves, and anyone whose lifestyle is in flux might not be ready for a pet. Some dogs and cats can live over 20 years, and you have to plan on caring for them for the entirety of a long and happy life.
- Is everyone in the household committed to this pet? You might know that your sister would love a new dog, but will her partner? Everyone who lives with an animal becomes part of its care, and they have to want that pet too. This is especially important for pets gifted to children or the elderly when other people will end up being the primary caregiver for the animal.
- Do you know exactly what kind of pet is a good match for them? Finding a perfect pet match is more than just Chihuahua vs. Jack Russel. Do they want a pet who will be clingy or independent? Do they want a couch potato or a mountain climber? Do they want just one or a whole pack? Just because you know a person well doesn’t always mean you know the pet they want.
If you can confidently tick off every box, gifting a pet can work—just as long as you do it right.
Responsible Ways to Gift a Pet
There are a few ways you can make the gifting process as smooth as possible for both the pet and their new owner. A box with holes in it waiting under the tree isn’t always the best method!
Give a Pet as a Gift—NOT a Surprise
Instead of dropping a puppy on their lap unannounced, have a conversation with the giftee. You can ask them all those tricky questions that you should know the answers to before adopting a pet, and they can decide just how involved they want to be in the process. They might love the idea of leaving the choice in your hands, or they might want to come to the shelter with you to pick out their new addition.
Gift Supplies and Adoption Fees
If you love the idea of having a surprise waiting for them on a holiday morning, giftwrap a leash and collar or a cozy bed and toys along with a gift certificate to cover the adoption cost of their new BFF. This way they can choose their own pet and make a perfect match without the financial stress that comes with purchasing a pet and supplies. (Added bonus: waiting until after the holidays to adopt means they’ll have distraction-free time to get their new pet acclimated to their home.)
Adopt a Pet for Your Family
The easiest way to ensure that a gifted pet will receive all the love and care they need is if you’ll be living with them and are ready to make that commitment. Whether you’re a guardian getting a pet for your kiddo or you’re surprising your partner, knowing that you’ll be part of their care team helps to ensure that your new pet will get everything they need and more.
We’re big believers in getting shelter pets into loving homes and in the joys of being a pet parent! With intentional, responsible planning, you can help a loved one find a new best friend who will bring them joy and happiness for years to come.