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All I want for Christmas... The Parents' Guide to Responsible Pet Purchasing

So your child has just written to Father Christmas asking for a puppy/kitten/pony/ rabbit/guinea pig?

Before you jump in and respond, take a moment to consider your reply. While we are huge advocates and supporters of families owning pets, NAWT knows only too well the massive commitment it entails.

As the adult of the family you are the legal owner of an animal, responsible for their care and welfare for the whole of its life. This could be five years if it’s a guinea pig, 12 years for a dog or 30 years for a pony. Now those games and toys seem like cheap and simple presents, don’t they?

Pets will remain on children’s Christmas lists for as long as Father Christmas goes on delivering presents every year. Our tips below offer practical ways to make positive decisions and help you discuss with your child why buying a pet at this time of the year is not the best timing.

Good luck!

Three reasons why Christmas is not the time for a new pet:

1: Tis the season of disruption: Christmas is a busy time for families, you have people staying or you may be away yourselves. New pets can easily be disturbed and frightened at an already stressful moment in their lives when they are trying to settle into a strange new environment

2. Household hazards: There will be a much higher number of hazards in the house at Christmas time such as a tree and hanging decorations not to mention the presents and wrapping paper for a young dog or cat to chew.  Add in a constant array of foods that can be toxic to animals such as chocolate, grapes or raisins and you begin to see why this is not the best time.

3. Cold comforts: if you’re getting a new pet that needs to live or be exercised outdoors then the dark mornings and evenings mean a lack of quality time for settling them in and developing a routine. Far better to wait until the spring or summer when you can spend more time outside sorting your routine before the autumn and winter arrives. You have thought about being out in all weathers and temperatures, haven’t you?

Six tips on how to manage the “I want a pet for Christmas” conversation:

Tip 1: It’s all in the timing. You want a pet but is now the right time for the whole family? Consider your lifestyle and the ages of your children. It might not be the right time now but in a couple of years instead. Make sure you explain the reasons to your child and encourage them to explore the subject to help them understand the considerations involved.

Tip 2: Pets are for sharing. While children will ask for a pet of their own, the true ownership lies with the parents particularly from a legal or financial standpoint. You will be the one caring for the animal when your child is at school or when vet bills need paying, so explain to them why the decision has to be made as a family.

Tip 3: Buy a book this Christmas and get planning. If you’ve decided to get a pet either in the next few months or sometime in the future, then buy your children a scrapbook, pad or file so they can start to gather information about breeds, the best place to purchase their pet, care guides, and pet events to visit so the whole family can be involved in making the decisions and it will make an exciting build up to the big day.

Tip 4: Put pet care on the present list. Suggest to relatives and friends looking for present ideas to purchase magazines, books or computer games on pet care. Money gifts can be put towards the purchase of items for your pet.

Tip 5: Visit a rescue centre. Your local rescue and re-homing centre will be able to help you establish if getting a pet is the right decision for your family. Visit at Christmas time and you will also learn how the animals at the centre will be spending Christmas Day. (Don’t worry the animals will have a good day with special Christmas Dinners!). Visit our Centres page to find one near to you.

Tip 6: Sponsor a rescue animal. Many rescue and re-homing centres offer the opportunity to sponsor animals, kennels, cat pens or even fields. A gift of this nature will enable your child to ‘care for’ animals until the time when they have a pet to look after themselves. Most rescues will provide personal certificates and updates on the animals helped. Contact you nearest centre find out more about sponsoring an NAWT animal or area.  

Download this advice sheet in PDF format here