That's not to say that this is a bad time to get a pet. Any season is a good time for a new member of the family, but presenting a pet as a surprise gift is never a good idea and on Christmas morning it is a really bad one. First, what will you do with it until Christmas morning? A puppy or kitten or even an older animal that is shuffled from place to place may be frightened or traumatized come the big day and not make a very good first impression. Plus it will be just one of several gifts that will get the kid's attention and the animal, says the Houston Humane Society's Courtney Clark, deserves better than that.
"The animal really deserves a few weeks time to settle in and become part of the family before that hectic Christmas morning rolls around."
Clark says anytime a new pet comes into the home there should be plenty of planning and the whole family should be involved in the process. A child who wants a large dog may find it to be too much dog in the flesh, or someone may want a lap dog while a bigger dog could take the rough housing kids can generate.
"When you come out bring the whole family, mom dad and the kids, or who ever will be living in the house where the animal is you really get to see first hand what the right kind of animal is. Sometimes people come in with preconceived notions of exactly what they want, but they get here and they fall in love with something completely different."
Even before getting to the point of selecting the perfect pet, Clark says have a family sit down and discuss the role each family member will play in caring for the pet.
"I always recommend that families sit down and think about any possible chore that could be pet related, so if it's cleaning the litter box or grooming the cat or feeding the dog or walking the dog or scooping the poop, any thing that families may have to do, sit down and write the whole list and then assign chores to every person. Every family member, mom, dad and kids has to sign their name to that chore chart and that's you're agreement."
Kids will agree to anything to get a puppy or kitten and then later not want to do all that's required to take care of it. That's when too many parents take the pet back to the shelter to teach their children a lesson.
"But boy, the animal's the one who really got the short end of the stick in that case. You are also teaching your kids that animals are expendable and that they can be returned, and that's not something that we want kids to learn."
Other bad ideas, according to Courtney Clark, are getting surprise pets for adults. She says not all people who have lost a pet are ready for a replacement and just because someone's said they want a dog doesn't mean they want one now or one that's been selected for them. But when all the planning has been accomplished a shelter is a great place to find a pet.
You'll find a link to the Houston Humane Society at kuhf. org or google "animal shelters in Houston" for a more extensive listing of places that are full of puppies and kittens, dogs and cats who have not yet found a family to love.