2015-12-09 / Front Page

Think, Before You Put A Pet Under Your Christmas Tree

By Liz Goff

If you are thinking of putting a puppy, kitten – or any other pet under your Christmas tree this holiday season, make sure you consider the responsibilities of pet ownership before wrapping up that warm, cuddly critter.

While the gift of a puppy or kitten can put a smile on any child’s face, it’s important to remember that the furry companions come with a list of needs that don’t disappear when you take down the tree.

Pet ownership can be one of the most rewarding and educational in the life of a child – or adult. But it is important to remember that puppies and kittens are not toys that can be ignored when your child is “not in the mood” to care for them.

Before you buy a pet, or adopt one from a rescue group or shelter, take time to learn the basics about the breed:

  • How large will the dog grow – and do you have room for it?
  • Is the dog housebroken? If not, how do you housebreak a puppy?
  • Will the pet shed its hair all over your house (and you)?
  • Talk about health care. Mixed breed dogs generally require fewer trips to the vet.
  • If you have kids, ask if the breed is known to be “good” with young children.
  • Does the puppy or kitten have a clean bill of health?
  • Does it have the necessary shots, i.e.: rabies, distemper, etc.?
  • Ask about spaying. Most shelters will provide free neutering of pets.

Parents should also ask themselves if they really believe their offspring can handle the long-term obligation of pet ownership.

Young children can’t be expected to understand the obligation, so make sure you are ready and willing to care for the puppy or kitten. 

Make your child part of the pet care process, experts said. Let youngsters feed pets, fill water bowls, leash the pet before walking it, brush and play with the pet to make it a part of the family.

Check listings at your neighborhood mall, your local veterinarian, your church or your youngster’s school for dates and times of pet adoption drives. Check with adoption services to determine if your new best friend has received necessary shots, if he or she has been neutered or spayed, and for prices on pet services required before you can adopt a pet.

Remember, shelters are overwhelmed after the holidays, with animals they receive from well-meaning people who buy pets before they think about the responsibilities of pet ownership.

For your sake, as well as the sake of your children and that warm, cuddly puppy or kitten, think before you put a pet under your tree.

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