(CATS AND DOGS/PET CARE) Thinking about giving someone a pet this holiday season? Before you make the big decision, check out these tips to ensure your gift will bring everyone joy! And don’t forget to visit our pet adoption database! — Global Animal

There are many factors one should consider before choosing to adopt a dog. Photo Credit: mcocy.montcopa.org
There are many factors one should consider before choosing to adopt a dog or cat. Photo Credit: mcocy.montcopa.org

Paw Nation, Monica Monzingo

If someone on your list is wishing for a pet this holiday season, here are some tips and things to consider to make sure that everyone — including the new animal — is jolly. Sherry Woodard is resident animal behavior consultant for Best Friends Animal Society, an animal advocacy group that also runs an animal sanctuary, as featured on the National Geographic show, “Dogtown.” She offers some smart advice on making this important decision.

Is a pet the right gift?

Owning a pet is one of the most rewarding things life can offer and it’s the start of a friendship that will last for years, but pets also come with serious responsibilities and a commitment to their health and happiness. Before deciding what kind of animal to buy, first consider the following questions:

– Is the giftee ready for the responsibility of pet ownership? If the answer ends up being no, are you prepared to take on full responsibility yourself? If you don’t think your kids are ready, perhaps give a lower-maintenance animal, like a fish, and see if they demonstrate the responsibility necessary for that desperately-wanted puppy.

– Has the giftee expressed a clear desire for a new pet? This is one case where a truly surprising gift might be an unpleasant surprise. If you’re not sure, Woodard suggests using creative ways to find out: Walk them by a pet-store window; leave Animal Planet on in the background during dinner; take a stroll around the local park or dog run to see if any particular pet catches their eye.

Make your shopping list (and check it twice)

If you’ve decided on getting a new pet for the family, you’ll want to make sure you have everything you need to make their new life comfortable and happy.

  • For dogs: Leash, collar, chew toys, treats, brush, food and water bowls, certificate for obedience classes and perhaps a chic dog sweater if it’s cold where you live.
  • For cats: Litter box, collar, food and water bowls, catnip, cat tree or perch and a cozy bed.
  • Start a file with all the info you’ll need to keep for the pet, including a photo, shot records and name and location of your local vet.
  • Woodard also recommends providing the pet with a crate that they know and trust, someplace they can relax and be comfortable (and in case of emergency, that you’ll be able to use to easily transport them).

Home for the holidays

Now for the fun part: bringing the pet home and introducing him to the family! Despite the classic imagery, skip the bows and boxes; they can be dangerous. Instead, try to stay calm when introducing the new pet, so he’ll be as relaxed as possible. Consider these tips:

  • Make sure small children know what to expect and how to act around their new friend. Children should always be supervised and taught to be quiet and gentle around their pet.
  • For dogs, start housebreaking immediately. Woodard suggests taking a new dog out every 45 minutes so they can learn where to do their business.
  • For cats, show them where the litter box is and make sure to give them a lot of downtime to adjust.
  • Help keep their anxiety down by not giving them run of the full house immediately. Use doors and barriers to slowly introduce them to each new room.
  • Address any behavioral issues immediately, even on the first day. Don’t wait for them to become big problems further down the road. Many training resources are available to help, and you can always contact your local shelter for advice.

Remember, these pet-buying tips can be applied year-round, not just the holidays, and they will set your family up for success with your wonderful new companion for years to come. “Then you can start planning for upcoming holidays,” says Woodard, “and all the fun things you’ll do together!”

More Paw Nation: http://www.pawnation.com/2009/12/18/the-purr-fect-gift-a-guide-to-giving-a-pet/