When the holiday season is in full swing and the flurry of shopping takes over, we might be tempted to get a pet for someone on our list. All veterinarians have clients who have been gifted dogs, cats, birds, hedgehogs, snakes, bunny rabbits and many other species of pets that they never expected and did not really want. Our practice has seen families where the spouse has purchased a surprise puppy or kitten for the family without informing their partner. Many times, that partner is extremely unhappy about the unexpected surprise. Usually, these pets have to be re-homed or go back to the shelter.
Pets can bring joy and companionship into someone’s life, but they are also a responsibility. They require time, energy and money in order to be cared for properly. Even people who plan ahead and research pet ownership before plunging into it are somewhat stunned by the portion of their time that needs to be devoted to walking the dog, cleaning the cat litter box, feeding, training, veterinary care, grooming and cleaning up pet fur around the house. Imagine how someone not expecting the pet as a gift would feel once the reality of pet ownership has dawned upon them.
If the gift is an exotic pet, there can be even more work involved. Birds require entertainment, social interaction and a variety of toys to keep them from being bored. They require a varied diet, including lots of vegetables, fruits, protein such as eggs, cooked brown rice and beans, and cage cleaning every day. Reptiles need a very specialized environment, which depends on appropriate lighting, temperature and humidity, and their diet varies greatly between species. Birds and reptiles are sometimes looked at as an ornament to add interest to a room with no thought about the noise, mess or work that will be involved.