Q: Our daughter, who recently bought her first house, has been talking about getting a puppy. She will be hosting Hanukkah this year, and we’d love to see her face when a cute little puppy sporting a big blue bow springs from the box we give her.
However, we’re nervous about giving her a pet because she may feel obligated to keep it even if she doesn’t want a puppy right now. What’s your advice?
A: I have good news and bad news for you.
The good news is what the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals learned when they surveyed people who received pets as gifts. They found that 96% of these people felt their bond to the pet was the same as or stronger than if they’d chosen the pet themselves.
Equally important, 86% of the gifted pets were still members of the family at the time of the survey.
Moreover, several studies have shown that pets received as gifts are actually less often relinquished to shelters than pets chosen by the individual.
Now for the bad news.
The holidays are a busy time, so it may be especially challenging for your daughter to accept a pet now. If she is away from home celebrating with family, friends and co-workers, she’ll have less time to socialize and train the new canine family member.
In addition, house training is more difficult during cold winter weather when puppies prefer to stay indoors where it’s warm.
I suggest instead that you give your daughter a leash, a dog toy and gift certificates to the local shelter and dog obedience training group. Then, after the holidays, you can accompany her as she chooses her new puppy.
When thinking about giving a living creature to a family member or friend, it’s important to remember that a pet should be given only to someone who has made the desire clear and is in a position to care for the pet for the remainder of its life.
If the recipient is a child, the parents should give their permission first.
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Q: Over the holidays, I will be visiting my sister and her two cats. What should I give her cats for Christmas?
A: Your thoughtfulness will further endear you to your sister and her beloved cats.
Give the cats interactive toys, such as a laser pointer or a fishing pole with a feather on the end, and use them to play with the cats.
When you and your sister are away from home, a DVD made for cats — featuring birds, butterflies and mice flitting across the screen — will keep them entertained.
Delight your sister’s cats with a pet fountain. Cats are attracted to running water, and fountains encourage them to drink more, which helps keep them healthy.
If you are driving and have room in your car, consider a kitty condo with towers for climbing, posts for scratching and platforms for dozing.
Alternatively, give the cats window perches so they can watch the outdoor birds. If your sister has a yard that can accommodate a bird feeder or bird bath, install it outside that window.
Finally, your visit may be stressful for the cats, so take along a plug-in Feliway diffuser to calm them. Feliway is the synthetic form of the feline facial pheromone that relaxes cats, helping them feel safe and secure despite having visitors in their home.
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