A black lab puppy lies in front of a Christmas tree decorated with colorful ornaments.

Gifting a Pet for the Holidays? Consider These Alternatives Instead

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It’s December. You’re cozying up for the holiday season, planning to take time off work and spend it with loved ones. The festivities may include giving and receiving gifts. It’s a perfect time for gifting a pet to your loved ones. Or is it?

Although it may seem like a great time to invite a new animal friend into your life (whether for a child or the whole family), the holiday season isn’t the ideal time for such a big step. Here are some reasons why, and potential alternatives to maintain the seasonal cheer.

Why can the holidays be a less-than-ideal time to bring home a new animal friend?

It can be stressful for you

The holidays are often a very busy season, and it can be difficult to keep everything (and everyone) going smoothly. Coordinating schedules and keeping track of commitments might be more than enough without incorporating a new animal friend. Visiting loved ones and hosting them might also be more than enough on your plate, leaving you emotionally drained and without the capacity to properly bond and care for a new pet.

It can be stressful for your animal companion

Change can be hard on animals, especially since it’s impossible to explain to them what’s going on. Even in ideal circumstances, it takes time for them to adjust to changes to their environment and schedule, and the midst of a holiday season is an especially challenging time. Their humans’ schedules are likely vastly different than usual. They may be leaving the house more often or having guests over, the home space might look different (for example, there’s a giant tree in the living room). It’s all very confusing and can put the animal through unnecessary stress.

What to do instead of getting or gifting a pet

Give cash or a gift card to cover adoption fees and/or supplies from a local pet store
This is a very practical option that goes a long way to welcoming a new animal home. While they likely don’t offer certificates, you can look up adoption fees at your local animal shelter and simply gift the required amount (perhaps with a cute animal-themed card). Another option is to offer a gift card or even purchase a few necessary items (or a combination of both) from your local pet store. If you’re buying actual items, you might want to include a gift receipt in case the animal they eventually bring home has different needs.

Give a certificate or voucher to visit a shelter

For those who prefer to gift experiences, this can be a cute option. Get out some craft supplies and make a sweet “voucher” for a date to visit the animal shelter in search of a new friend. You can personalize it as much or as little as you want – maybe you’re looking for a medium-sized dog who needs a backyard and loves children, or maybe you’re looking for a kitten with a big personality, or a pair of guinea pig pals. Even if you don’t consider yourself a creative person, this option can be very personal and thoughtful.

Give an animal stuffy to represent the type of animal you’re planning to adopt

Instead of gifting a pet, why not wrap up an adorable stuffy? While it might not be as cute as the real thing, it offers a sweet option to put under the tree for your giftee to unwrap, and get them excited for their future pet. Your new animal friend might even enjoy cuddling (or chewing) their stuffy counterpart, as long as it’s animal safe.

Give a themed book featuring the animal of choice

This is perhaps best suited for a young child, but depending on the book, this option may still be cute for an older recipient. You could go for something as basic as a board book (bonus points for “feel”-able books like Pat the Bunny), or something more complex for older kids like a graphic novel or comic strip collection.

Give a how-to care book about their chosen animal

Similar to the last option, but more direct and practical, you might offer a how-to guide for caring for the selected animal. This option is great because it offers practical help to get your giftee started in caring for their new friend. Depending on your giftee, it could be a humorous gift as well (see books like How to Talk to Your Cat).

Gifting a pet (or adopting one yourself) isn’t always the best idea during the busy holiday season, but don’t despair! With a little creativity, you can still give a thoughtful gift and make the holidays very special without involving a new animal in the season’s festive chaos.

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