Thinking of gifting a pet? Think again


CONSEQUENCES Every year, animal rescue charities are inundated with unwanted, abandoned and indeed abused animals that were given as Christmas gifts.

The vet's view
Conal Finnerty

I am discussing this subject this month in order to give readers lots of time to chew-the-cud, as it were, in relation to the giving of pets as Christmas gifts and whether it is in fact such a good idea.
Every year without fail, the animal rescue charities throughout the country are inundated with unwanted, abandoned and indeed abused animals that were given as Christmas gifts. These grim stats only come to the surface months after Christmas, when the novelty and excitement of the bundle of joy that was the Christmas gift has worn out its owners patience when dealing with chewed shoes, clothes and electrical wires, not to mention the countless ‘presents’ both liquid and solid that have been left on carpets, chairs and rugs.
On balance, I think that pets, be they dogs, cats, reptiles, rodents, what ever they may be are not suitable as Christmas gifts – unless a lot of proper research and family discussion has gone into the decision.
So often poor choices are made in relation to breed choice, especially when it comes to dogs. The small cuddly ‘Andrex’ puppy will in a short few months, grow up to be a large, strong and probably very boisterous animal that can cause some problems in terms of attention, walking and space needs.
Kittens, similarly, do not stay small and fluffy for long but grow up to become adults with feline personalities that new owners may not grow to like or appreciate for their individuality. Also, if the feline is to be a house cat, there is the extra dimension of a litter tray, which needs regular cleaning and – despite the best of hygiene practices – can leave a distinct ‘smell’ in the house. New, unsuspecting owners can grow tired of this very very quickly.
Different animals need varying degrees of attention, interaction and exercise, but all animals need feeding and cleaning every single day. This can become laborious very quickly. The recipient might have begged for the wonderful cuddly Christmas gift saying, ‘But I will feed it and clean out from it and walk it every single day’, but this can and very often is forgotten, even by the new year.
Rather than springing a pet as a surprise Christmas morning gift on your family, perhaps the promise of a trip to one of our rescue charities in January or February with a view to looking at rescuing a pet who perhaps was an unwanted Christmas gift last year would be a better idea. Here, you and the rescue-centre staff can discuss the right option for you as a family in terms of species and breed.
A wonderful gift for the animal lover in your life could be a charitable donation to one of our animal rescue centres, or indeed maybe a Christmas gift from one of the shops that support these centres. The Donkey Sanctuary and Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind sell Christmas cards and calendars every year which are another great idea; keep them in mind.
In the meantime, wash those hands, socially distance and wear a mask (properly), and remember, each of us has our bit to do and together we can hopefully look forward to a safe and healthy Christmas period.

Veterinarian Conal Finnerty MRCVS practises at the Skeldale Vet Clinic in Ballinrobe and Belmullet. Follow the clinic on Facebook, or call 094 9541980 or 087 9185350 to make an appointment.


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