They tied a ribbon to his collar and put him in a big basket under the tree. But, their little boy—he didn’t seem to like Riley too much. He didn’t want to hold him or play with him. So, later, they drove into the city and left Riley in the gutter, on the coldest, rainiest night of the year. 

Talk about a tearjerker. In Homeward Bound II: Lost in San Francisco, a poor pup named Riley was bought as a Christmas gift for a small boy, but the boy showed no interest in his new puppy. Boys and puppies may go together like peanut butter and jelly, but pets do not make good gifts. 

What went wrong in this scenario for poor Riley, and how can you prevent a repeat of this situation in your own home? If you’re thinking of giving a pet as a gift, first ask yourself the following questions:

#1: Does the recipient really want a new pet?

Many people gush over puppies and kittens, claiming to want one, but is that really the case? It’s easy to be overwhelmed with puppy or kitten fever, but once reality sets in about the day-to-day care puppies and kittens require, it’s often a different story. 

#2: Is the recipient ready for a new pet?

People sometimes want to give pets as gifts to help a friend get over the loss of another pet. Although many people want to fill that void immediately with a new furry companion, others need time to mourn the loss of a cherished pet. If you know someone is considering a new pet, ensure she’s completely ready for a new furry friend before making the mistake of creating a burden, rather than a companion.

#3: If the recipient is ready for a new pet, why does she not have one yet?

If you know your potential giftee is a cat or dog lover who wants a new pet, consider why she does not yet have one. Lack of time, personal reasons, financial constraints, a potential move, lack of space, or upcoming travel plans can push back the time frame on adopting a new pet. A new puppy or kitten can be a burden financially with wellness veterinary visits for vaccination boosters, and a huge time commitment with training and socializing. Friends and family may not share their reasons why it’s not a good time for a new pet, so determining whether they’re truly ready can be difficult. 

#4: Are you in a position to make decisions for the family regarding a new pet?

If the person you’d like to gift with a pet is part of your immediate family, such as a child, then you can make that decision, although it may backfire if your child quickly becomes bored with pet ownership. But, if you don’t live with the person and fully understand her home life and living arrangements, avoid making such an important decision. While some people may appreciate such a gift, others want to choose a pet for themselves, or may come to view the pet as an unwanted burden.

#5: Are you sure everyone is on board with getting a new pet?

If you’re wanting to give your niece, nephew, or grandchild a pet, consider what the parents want, as well. Many children love the idea of a snuggly puppy or playful kitten, but their parents are dead set against it, and going behind their backs to bring a pet into their household is disrespectful. In your own family, your spouse may disagree about a new pet, and you will likely sow discord if you bring one home without approval. 

#6: Are the holidays the best time to welcome a new pet into the family?

The holidays are one of the most chaotic and hectic times of year, and welcoming a new pet into your family only adds extra stress. Your new pet may not receive the attention she deserves, since you will be busy with holiday gatherings and commitments. Pets thrive on routine, which is often nonexistent during the holidays, leading to a poor start to her acclimation. For anyone who plans on welcoming a new pet into their family, the holidays are not the best time. Choose a time when you have the ability to train, bond, and accustom your new pet to her new life. 

Although sticking with non-living, non-breathing gifts is safest and wisest, if you’ve welcomed a new pet into your home this holiday season, we’d love to meet her. Schedule a wellness visit to ensure your new four-legged friend is healthy.