It’s that time of year – Christmas spirit is in the air and everyone is in the mood to give. Some gifts are better suited than others and some are gift decisions are made too hastily.
Parents, friends or various family members may think, “It is the time of giving, so why not give an animal a new home and give little Johnny a new pet?” If you’re considering giving a pet as a gift this year, make sure the recipient is ready for the commitment that comes with bringing in a furry companion.
The first thing to consider is the most important.
“Make sure they want a pet at first,” said Coffee County Humane Society’s (CCHS) Hazel Fannin.
Jeff Keele, a vet at All Creatures Vet Clinic, was against the idea of adopting a pet for another person entirely.
“I would pay for the adoption fee, but not pick out a pet. Maybe not the best idea to do it,” Keele said.
If a furry companion is on the wish list, ensure that the family has the capability of committing long-term – cats and dogs can live to be 20 years old or more.
“If you get a dog and put it outside and not pay attention to it, that’s a terrible life for them. They’re companions,” said Coffee County Human Society member Sally Berryman.
Taking care of a pet is more than buying it food and putting out clean water. Fannin and other Human Society members stressed that being financially stable enough to take care of a pet is important.
Keele said it isn’t uncommon for first-time pet owners to be shocked at how many vaccinations puppies and kittens need and just how much those shots can cost.
“Kittens are actually more expensive than puppies with first with vet trips,” he said.
Keele added that establishing a relationship with a vet to get an individual perspective on the animal is a good starting point to learn what the animal will need while growing up.
If you’re looking to gift a dog or add one to the family as a Christmas present, be sure lifestyles match up with one the dog needs.
Once the adoption is processed and the furry friend is home, there are things that can be done to make the transition smoother for the people and the pet. Fannin said the dog or cat may be loud the first night or two as they adjust to the new home.
It also may take the dog longer than expected to get toilet trained or the cat to stop scratching the carpet or furniture. These habits take consistent training to take effect.
“Training the people is more important than training the pet,” said Coffee County Commissioner Margaret Cunningham.
For dogs, a regular feeding time and taking them outside as soon as they wake up will help develop good habits. Crate training for when owners have to leave the house is a good habit as well, Fannin said.
For cats, a scratching post rubbed with catnip will help encourage good scratching habits.
For any pet, baby-proof the home. Make sure there isn’t rat poison in areas they can get too, poisonous fluids they can consume or holiday decorations for them to get into. Do not feed the dog ham or turkey fat, as they are high in fat and can lead to medical problems such as pancreatitis and other digestive upsets.
Though a lot of work, all of the members of Coffee County Human Society encourage adoption or paying their $75 adoption fee for someone to pick out their own animal. Their fee covers all vaccines and spay/neuter operations.
“Adopting a dog is a better dog than going to a breeder,” said Joe Taylor.
Berryman added that it is a mutual rescue – the pet gets a new home and the human gets a friend for life.
Berryman, Fannin and Cunningham agreed that the pets are appreciative and they know that they’re being adopted into a forever home and will often act hard to please their new owners. This includes learning good habits faster.
Additionally, the three listed the benefits of brining an animal into a home, including teaching responsibility and a good work ethic, bringing unconditional love and friendship, and teaching empathy.
If a cat or a puppy under the Christmas tree is the first animal to be welcomed into the household, members of the Coffee County Human Society offered some tips.
“When you get a kitten or a puppy, do not leave them alone with younger kids. So many animals lose their life because they bite or scratch … and you don’t know why they did it,” Fannin said.
Teach children to pet gently, speak softly and do not tug on their ears and tails.
Breeds matter as well. First-time dog owners should avoid Chihuahuas or Pomeranians or larger or hyper breeds, such as border collies. Poodles and gold retrievers are typically safe picks.
“Mixed breeds are always good dogs, as a general rule,” Berryman said.
Cat breeds have an impact on personality as well, but the range isn’t as wide as with dogs. Longer-haired breeds often require more maintenance and need to be brushed to maintain fur health and reduce hairballs.
All animals shed, regardless if they are long- or short-haired. The sole exception is hairless cats.
If adopting is on the mind of a first-time pet owner, but they’re unsure if they can handle the commitment or breed, there is an option for them.
“If you’re not sure you want an animal, consider fostering for the Humane Society,” Fannin said.
Fostering is a temporary home for the dog or cat until they can be adopted into a forever home. It allows the foster family to experience various breeds and animals to see what would be a good fit for their household, as well as helping an animal in need.
If interested in fostering, contact the Coffee County Humane Society at 931-723-2730.