Well, it's January 1, 2009 so why are we talking about giving pets (puppies and kittens) as gifts? The holiday season is over, shouldn't this have been the December entry? Well, actually and unfortunately this is not a seasonal phenomena. Pets are given as gifts all throughout the year for birthdays, anniversaries but also at Christmas and Valentines Day. Aww, it's such a cute picture, your child or significant other snuggling that cute kitten or puppy with the big red bow. Let's sigh and say Aww again just for effect. Yes, that's cute and very Norman Rockwell-ish but it's not real. There are so many reasons this is a bad idea, it's actually hard to put a number to them.
Giving a pet is very unimaginative. Nothing says I have no imagination whatsoever and I've never listened to a thing you've said you wanted all year, so I'm taking the easy way out. After all who wouldn't LOVE a new pet that requires daily care, training, vetting.... Pets are expensive, not just to buy, but to maintain for at least the next decade. Getting someone a gift that continues to cost money isn't a very romantic or considerate thing to do. It's like getting someone a trial membership to a gym that is self renewing (and not paid by you), you just don't. Even if your significant other has been talking about getting a pet, unless they have put action to it, it's just talk and the decision hasn't been finalized.
Then speaking of the decade, that makes this a very huge and very personal decision. Most people like to make those big decisions themselves, if they are going to pick out a companion that is going to live the next 10-17 years. Pets have personalities and not all of them will be suitable for all different situations. It is important to consider what you want from a pet and then choose an appropriate type/breed and then interview different ones until you find just the right one that fits. There are things to consider such as budgeting for the expense, finding a vet, making sure your housing accomodations will support a pet. If you are considering a pit bull puppy, you have to make sure that the local laws will allow it and your landlord or home owner's insurance will permit you to have one. Those considerations do not end, they are life long for this breed. I am sure the giver may have the very best intentions, but they are not informed intentions and often the pet pays the price.
Consider the pet. If you haven't considered all of the above, please consider the pet itself. It's a life and not something to be treated with disrespect. It is defenseless and can't take care of itself. Pets live on our good graces and we should respect their needs. If the recipient doesn't want the pet, it won't be appreciated, it won't be as loved as if they had picked it themselves and it could even be given away or taken to a shelter as soon as it is no longer convenient. Pets form bonds with people and it hurts them to mistreated and unwanted and then other behavior problems can begin to surface.
The very best gift to give someone that is considering a pet is a puppy care package. A coupon for an adoption fee so that the person can pick out their own pet. Some toys, collars, leashes, treats, pet bedding, a certificate to an obedience program (that doesn't expire) and a credit on a local vet for the first set of shots. Another good idea is a gift certificate to pay for the spay/neuter of the new pet to ensure it's health and well being.
Consider making 2009 a better year for the pets.