Christmas may be a Perfect Time to get a Pet

By Judy Layne

Christmas holidays can potentially be a great time to adopt a pet.  Surprised?  Animal welfare experts now agree that there is no bad time of year to adopt a pet, so long as it’s done the right way.

It was a long-held belief by many in the animal world that shelters should not allow adoptions during the Christmas holidays.  The overarching fear was that pets adopted or given as gifts during the Christmas holidays were at higher risk of being returned. As it turns out, this fear is unfounded.  There is no evidence to support the myth that pets adopted or given as Christmas gifts are more likely to be rejected or returned. In fact, the opposite is true.

In 2013, The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) conducted a study whose results bust the myth about giving pets as gifts, allowing more animals to be placed in loving homes in the process. They found that:

  • 96% of people who received their pet as a gift said the way they got their pet either increased or had no impact on their love or attachment
  • 86% of those pets remained with the family until the pets passed away – the same rate as pets obtained at other times of the year or in other ways.  If you’d like to see the study itself, check out this link.

Need more convincing?  A different study identified 71 reasons given for surrendering a pet. ‘Unwanted gift’ was listed as a reason for only 0.3% of dogs and 0.4% of cats, compared with ‘No time for pet’ as a reason 10% of dogs were surrendered and ‘allergies in the family’ as a reason 18% of cats were given up.

These study results are borne out by the Nova Scotia SPCA’s experience.  “Many families who adopted pets during the holidays send the SPCA happy updates about their new pets, thanking the SPCA for the best gift ever,” says Heather Woodin, Director of Programs and Administration at the Nova Scotia SPCA. “Further, there is no increase in the number of these pets coming back into our care.”

Experts caution however, that every re-homing must be considered on a case-by-case basis.  While the holiday season might not be the right time for some of us to get a new pet, it can actually be the perfect time for others. “The holidays may just be a great time to get to know a new pet in your home. If it’s the right time for you and your family we’re happy to make it happen” says Heather.

If you’re thinking of adopting during the holidays, there are some critical questions to answer first.

  • Interest: Has your family expressed sustained interest in owning a pet?
  • Cost: Is your family financially able and willing to pay for food, supplies, veterinary care, and other supplies/services over the pet’s lifetime?
  • Knowledge:  Does your family have the know-how to care for a pet responsibly?
  • Time: Does your family have time for daily exercise, interaction, and play? How often will someone be home with the pet?
  • Space: What kind of environment will the pet live in? Does the building or residence have any restrictions on pets?
  • Compatibility: What kind of pet would best fit your family’s lifestyle?
  • Health: Does anyone in the family have allergies or other conditions that would conflict with caring for the pet?
  • Other Pets: Will the new pet get along with other pets in the household?
  • Holiday Plans:  Will your family have an extended quiet Christmas holiday so they can focus on the new pet and ease the pet’s adjustment to a new home?

If you answered ‘yes’ to the above questions, this could potentially the perfect time to add a new furry family member.

I hope you’ll consider adopting or giving a deserving pet a forever home this holiday season.  The love they share with us is the greatest gift of all.

Judy Layne

Judy is a dedicated volunteer with the Nova Scotia SPCA and proud adoptive fur-mama to Gracie. She is committed to speaking for animals who cannot speak for themselves.