Pet Care Pointers

Pets as presents: Think long-term

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Chicago Tribune

Getting a pet for Christmas?

It's one of those ideas - like spray-on hair and Kosuke Fukudome - that may seem sensible at first but can be quickly slapped silly by reality.

Buying a holiday pet - whether a dog or cat or even a bird or tank of fish - is something that needs to be carefully considered. Some of the issues:

Getting a pet should be a family decision. Everyone will have a stake in raising the dog or cat - feeding, walking, training, the inevitable cleaning-up-after - so everyone should be involved in the decision, from the type of animal to its name.

The cost of a new pet goes beyond the purchase price. There are vet bills, food costs and upkeep, not to mention the ever-climbing price of squeak toys. And don't forget damage repair; a clawed sofa or chewed carpet can be costly.

There's a time commitment. A dog or cat can live 10 to 15 years or more and needs attention every single day. A box turtle might outlive you and your kids.

Holidays are a bad time to introduce a pet to new surroundings. You're running around and can't give the animal the attention it needs at this crucial time, when it should be getting acclimated to your home. And those holiday visits from family and friends ... heck, they're your family and friends and they make you grind your teeth. Imagine how a puppy or kitten would feel, having to deal with these strangers.

Despite the drawbacks, 53 percent of new pets are acquired during the holiday season, according to the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association.

Recognizing that, Best Friends Animal Society won't shut the door on holiday adoptions.

Judah Battista of Best Friends said in an e-mail that the society's position is that shelters and rescues can accommodate people's desires to adopt pets as gifts "by allowing (1) the adoption of pets to households where the responsible adult(s) of that household have made a decision to add a new pet to the family, or (2) giving adoption vouchers to people wishing to gift a pet to a significant other. We do not endorse adoptions for people looking to find a pet for a friend or relative in another household."

So the decision is yours. Think carefully.

© 2008, Chicago Tribune.
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