Remember that a pet for Christmas will become a pet for life
If a cat or a dog is on your child's list for Santa this year, experts say the decision needs to be well thought out and should ideally involve the whole family.
SEATTLE - Waking up to find a puppy or a kitten under the tree on Christmas morning might be a child's dream, but experts caution parents to think far beyond the holidays when considering a new pet. K.C. Theisen, director of pet-care issues, Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), said bringing an animal into the family requires the same level of planning as any other addition, because this will likely be a 10- to 20-year commitment.
"It's just a fact that small children aren't quite responsible enough to handle all of the duties for a dog or a cat. Even teenagers often end up with very busy lives or go off to college," Theisen said.
Experts say many pets end up in shelters later in the year because families don't give this big decision quite enough forethought.
While a Christmas surprise works well in movies and on television, Theisen said it is far better for all parties to choose a family pet - as a family. If there has to be something under the tree, she suggested a stuffed animal, or something like food and toys for a dog or cat, as a clue about what's coming up.
"Hold off until the chaos of the holidays winds down a little bit to actually go to the local shelter and have the whole family participate in picking out the new pet."
Theisen added that many local shelters would host adoption events and specials in the days after Christmas, when families can work with adoption counselors to make the best possible match. Most local animal shelters do have adoption counselors on hand to meet with families and discuss all the issues, she said.