The Christmas season is in full swing which means it's time to start brainstorming gift ideas for friends and family. Here in America, we are notorious for giving pets as presents for celebratory occasions such as birthdays and holidays.

Though well intentioned and seemingly a good idea in the moment, it's important to think ahead and remember that while a puppy or kitten might look adorable under the Christmas tree, the responsibility of taking care of a pet lasts much longer than the holiday season.

Adopting a pet means dedicating many, many years to caring for your new companion which is something that people need to prepare for, think through, and contemplate whether or not they are able to do so.

Since the entire point of gift giving is the element of surprise, gifting a furry friend impedes this very important preparation process. This unfortunately often leads to many animals ending up back in shelters following the holiday season as people slowly figure out that they are ill equipped to care for them whether it be due to lack of time, money, energy, or interest.

I recently adopted a kitten, and it reminded me of how important it is to weight the pros and cons of adding a pet to the family. Thought I had taken over a month to ponder whether or not I was ready, I was still faced with many unexpected challenges that I hadn't even considered. This shock of "wow I was not prepared for this" increases greatly when a live animal is suddenly sprung on you without warning. And, unlike that ugly sweater your mom buys you, four-legged friends don't come with gift receipts.

Even though I might sound like a Grinch when I say this, I stand by it: surprise gifting pets is generally a bad idea. BUT, there are ways to go about gifting a pet in a more responsible way. Consulting everyone in the home to make sure all family members are on the same page, considering things like lifestyle and free time, educating yourself about different breeds and their needs and researching costs, care, and proper materials needed beforehand can help ensure that that tiny little ball of Christmas joy gets the furever home that they deserve.

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