During the weeks leading up to Christmas, more animals are adopted than at any other time of the year. However, the weeks after Christmas, in the end of December and early January, more animals are surrendered to shelters than at any other time.
Why does this happen? There are many reasons. That “Christmas surprise” was not as well-received as the givers had hoped. That adorable Christmas puppy has already become more work and more mess than Mom and Dad had anticipated. The kids are already bored with their new four-legged toy and want something different.
How can you prevent this? Consider carefully before choosing to bring home a kitten or puppy for your children’s Christmas gift this year. A kitten or puppy can be one of the most magical gifts on Christmas morning, but a pet should be more than that. You want to teach your children that owning a pet is about love, commitment and responsibility.
Ask your children why they want a kitten or puppy right now. Did they see one in a movie that they thought was especially cute, loveable, brave or loyal? Did they encounter one at a friend’s house and now want one of their own?
It’s also important to ask your children what they know about how to take care of a kitten or puppy. Do they understand that a puppy will need to be played with, walked, and cleaned up after for many months in addition to being fed and watered? Do they understand that a kitten may not want to be carried around and cuddled all the time?
Have your children had much experience with cats or dogs? If not, you might want to try fostering one first before you make the commitment to adopt or purchase a permanent addition to your family. Children don’t automatically know how to handle a kitten or puppy appropriately. You have to take the time to show them how gently a kitten needs to be held or not to hug a puppy too tightly.
Growing up with a cat or dog can be a wonderful experience for a child. The relationship provides unconditional love and support, as well as the opportunity to begin learning responsibility. PetFinder has a great article for further advice.
Jessie, an eight year old deaf Shih Tzu/Sheepdog mix from Nashville, is a perfect example of Christmas adoption done right. Her new owner is a nine year old boy who just triumphed over cancer. His mother spent six months searching for the right dog, one who would be gentle and calm enough for a very special little boy.