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Small dog chewing on a red toy bone in front of Christmas tree

The Do's And Don'ts Of Gifting Pets

Recreating the perfect Christmas scene may seem easy. You might imagine tying a big red bow around a kitten or puppy’s neck, placing it under the tree, and waiting for the kids to come down and adore their new forever friend. While that might sound great in theory, the reality can look much different. 

Though receiving a pet on Christmas morning may seem like a dream come true, there are many factors that should be considered when giving someone a pet as a gift. Once in a person’s care, an animal shouldn’t be returned. It’s important to realize that adopting requires a 10- to 15-year commitment to a living, breathing creature. Though it might be a sweet gesture that can make a family happy for years to come, timing is an important factor.

Know when to gift a pet

It has become a popular trend to gift pets for the holidays because of the great photo opportunity and the desire to make the recipient happy. However, as is the case with any instance of gift-giving, do your research and make sure an animal companion is something that he or she wants. 

There are many presents that can be given as a surprise, but a pet shouldn’t necessarily be one of them. That’s not to say it should never happen but avoid springing the responsibility on the recipient without warning or planning. When contemplating the decision, talk to family, friends, and the receiver about taking in an animal.

Factors to consider when gifting pets

Pets - whether dogs, cats, hamsters, lizards, or anything in between - are vulnerable creatures that require time, attention, and a considerable budget. Even minor elements of animal care, such as taking a dog on a walk during the colder months, should be kept in mind. A further indicator that an individual did not know how to gift a dog to someone is if the recipient has allergies. It’s vital to take allergies to any animal type into account before gifting one, as many are surrendered to shelters with an allergy listed as the reason.

Keep in mind animals are not toys. They come with a lot of responsibility that someone, especially a child, may not be ready to face. When giving a pet to a family, it should not be unexpected. There should be thorough communication beforehand so the animal’s needs can be properly met right away. Consider the following factors when getting a living creature for a friend or relative.

  • Cost: There may be instances where the animal sleeps on the master bed or eats table scraps. Acknowledge that the recipient should be financially capable and willing to budget food, supplies, insurance, and veterinary care into their expenses. Depending on the age, the animal may need vaccinations, to be neutered, or have more health-related concerns right away. These should all be given thought in advance.
  • Interest: Your friend or family member might have swooned over a passing dog on the sidewalk, but has he or she expressed personal interest in wanting a pet? Be sure that the person has openly confirmed that he or she could handle the responsibility. 
  • Lifestyle: Is the receiver working long hours or from home? Does he or she participate in many extracurricular activities? Are young children present in the house? Once you’re sure that the individual wants an animal, consider his or her lifestyle as well as any current or future commitments.
  • Pet type: If the recipient lives in an apartment or condo, a large dog breed probably isn’t the best option. If the family doesn’t have time or space for vigorous exercise or long walks, giving a kitten as a present may be a better fit. Be mindful of the circumstances of the person and adjust the breed or species to what he or she can handle. 
  • Temperament: As much as you want to consider the needs and interests of the recipient, keep the pet’s well-being in mind as well. Give adequate time for the animal to prepare for its new environment and feel calm with strangers.

Adopt an animal as a gift

You may unexpectedly come across a puppy or kitten for sale and want to take it home. However, when it comes to gifting, don’t do it on impulse. Once you’re certain that giving a cat or dog as a present is the best idea, do your research to ensure it will be in a safe, secure, and long-term home. Additionally, it’s a good idea to prepare a care package when giving a pet as a gift. This can include a bed, collar, and leash as well as necessities. Wrap a litter box, kitty litter, and a scoop when gifting a cat for a surprise that doesn’t call for an immediate trip to the store.

If you really want to go above and beyond, you can consider chipping in for a Figo pet insurance policy with your gifted cat or dog. That way, the recipient can be protected from any unforeseen medical expenses and your thoughtful gift won't turn into a financial crisis for your friend down the road.

Adopting from a shelter instead of buying from a breeder may be a more meaningful route. This could be done by sharing pictures online or by paying the adoption fees upfront and letting the recipient choose.

You can even create a “pet catalog” with pictures, breed information, and age on available animals at local shelters. This allows the person getting the animal to have more input on the decision while the gift is still being presented in a cute way. Whichever you decide, be sure to conduct the process responsibly, and don’t forget a shiny bow!


Lizz Caputo is a Content Strategist at Figo, animal enthusiast, and owner of a rescued senior American Bully. Her hobbies include checking out new restaurants in her area, boxing, and petting dogs of all shapes and sizes.

Protect your pet from the unexpected with Figo Pet Insurance, rated “Best Pet Insurance” by Reviews.com since 2017.

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