What to Consider Before Getting a Pet for the Holidays (or Anytime)
The gift-giving season has arrived, and for many children (and adults), a cute, snuggly dog or cat is on the list of what they are wishing for. The key to adding a new pet to your life the right way, is by being prepared — not just on the day you bring your new animal home, but for every day after. A pet is truly the gift that keeps on giving. Below you’ll find what to consider before getting a new dog or cat for the holidays (or any time of the year), and how best to prepare for your new pet!
Is Your Family Ready for a New Pet?
Discuss how a new kitten or puppy will change your family’s life, and how it will affect children—even older children. It is easy to imagine that the older a child is, the easier it will be to enlist them in the care of the pet, but older children tend to have more social engagements and may not have a lot of time to spend with a new puppy or new kitten.
A pet can change a lot of the family’s day-to-day arrangements, like schedules (walking, feeding, training), sleeping arrangements (who gets to keep the pet in their room), and pet safety precautions. And then you’ll need to make sure that family members can handle the responsibility of litter box duty, potty training, and cleaning up pet messes.
Think about the Finances
Much like a human family member, animals have a lot of costs involved, including but not limited to food, vet visits, toys, collars, grooming supplies, etc.
The holidays are a time when many of our wallets are already stretched thin, so it is very important to take a good look at your financial situation ahead of time and then determine whether now is the right time to get a pet.
Choose a Pet That’s Best Suited for Your Family
If you have thought about all the new responsibilities and you think your family is ready for a new pet, do diligent research on which type and breed is best suited to your family and home. It may be that the pet you think is most unlikely to be the perfect fit is the very one that is. For many families, an older, calmer cat or dog that’s already trained may be more practical than a new kitten or new puppy that needs a lot of attention and training.
That is why you should also take some time to visit your local animal shelter. There are many dogs, cats, puppies and kittens looking for a forever home, so you’re sure to find the perfect pet for you and your family.
Prepare Your Home for Your New Pet
In order to properly introduce a new pet, you will need to prepare your home in the same way that you would prepare it for a newborn baby. Leave no dangling cords or curtain or blind pulls, no small toys on the floor, and no candies or other foods within easy reach.
There is a lot to do in preparation, and a lot you won’t think of until after the fact. Then there are all of the necessary pet supplies, including food, a crate, a leash, beds, a collar, etc. One of the most important preparations is to create a quiet place for your pet to sleep, eat and just get away from things when she is feeling overwhelmed.
If you will be traveling or hosting large parties during the holidays, it might not be the right time to bring a new pet into your family. Pets need attention and training from the moment they enter your family, and the holidays already stretch your time and patience.
Christmas morning is especially chaotic, with everyone tearing into gifts and leaving hazardous ribbons, wrapping paper, candies, and small toys all over, all of which look to an animal like good things to chew on. You don’t want your first night (or any night) with your new pet to be spent in a veterinary emergency room with your pet suffering from obstructed breathing or blocked intestines. For all of these reasons, anytime near Christmas might not be the ideal time to surprise the family with a new pet.
Before bringing a dog or cat into a house with children, rules must be established and proper handling, petting, and personal space boundaries should be taught and practiced.
There have been plenty of injuries sustained due to well-meaning children overestimating their strength and ability to keep an animal stable in their arms.
Unfortunately, there have also been plenty of injuries sustained by children who haven’t been taught how to approach an animal properly, or how to recognize when an animal wants to be left alone. Truth be told, adult humans need to be taught this lesson as well, so why not make this an exercise for the whole family!
Holiday Travel Plans
The first few months with your dog or cat are incredibly important for establishing bonds, routines, and house rules. If you have upcoming travel plans, it may not be the best time to bring a pet home. Wait until you have an extended period of time at home in your regular routine to bring home a new pet. This will help them settle in and make the often stressful transition period easier.
If you live in a colder climate and are getting a dog that needs potty training, be prepared for late nights, early mornings, and invest in a good flashlight, and a warm coat and boots for you and your dog. Some dogs really don’t enjoy being outdoors in the cold, which can make house training take longer than usual and sometimes these dogs will have accidents inside. Be prepared for a consistent potty training schedule that might include frequent chilly trips outdoors, or consider training your dog to use potty pads.
Having family over for the holidays can be overwhelming for anybody, but it can be especially overwhelming for a dog or cat who is still getting used to their new world. Too much, too soon can create lasting fears and socialization issues. If that early bonding period is stressed or pushed to the limits too early with a lot of visitors and socialization done incorrectly (i.e. not at the puppy or the kitten’s pace), it can make things a lot scarier for them, and that can really inhibit their social growth going forward. Houseguests can also bring other potential hazards into the home, with more doors opening and closing, bags, coat pockets, and luggage to get into, and of course, the family members who insist on feeding table scraps or aren’t too keen on cleaning up after themselves.
Get Your Plans Lined Up Early
Since you’re planning early and thinking about your post-holiday schedules, why not start looking around for a trustworthy sitter, or walker? Even if you don’t need a kitty walker, having someone you can trust to check in on them, or stay with them when you eventually travel, will be great to have in place. And by that same token, if you don’t have a trusted veterinarian yet, now may be the time to get established.
Having a vet picked out before getting your new furry family member, and actually meeting that vet and their team, may be very beneficial, especially if they are open to talking about what type of pet might be best for your family situation and what things to consider.
Similarly, if you’re getting a puppy, look into getting a trainer lined up for when they are ready for socialization classes. These trainers may be able to help you in the decision making process as well.
Adding a new pet to your life is a wonderful experience, and we hope that the resources we’ve shared will help make the process easier and less stressful for you and your family.
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About Shallowford Animal Hospital
Shallowford Animal Hospital and The Pet Spa at Shallowford are dedicated to the exceptional, compassionate care your pet deserves. Pets hold a very special place in our families, and we treat yours like our own.