Caitlin UltimoHolidays / Pet Parenting

How to Give Pets as Gifts

Give Your Loved Ones the Gift of a Furry Friend

Giving pets as gifts is a hot topic of debate in the animal shelter and rescue community. With the holiday season upon us and the gift lists in their final stages of completion, many households may be thinking about adding a new furry friend to their family, and some may be considering gifting a pet to their loved ones. As wonderful as having a pet can be, there are many important things to consider before taking on the responsibility of welcoming a new furry family member—or putting that onus on your friends and family. Before you get too deep into the idea of giving pets as surprise gifts for your loved ones, and before you start planning and prepping, consider the following three questions.

How to Give Pets as Gifts

  • Are They Ready for a Lifelong Commitment?

    A pet of any kind is a huge emotional and financial responsibility that requires significant time and effort on the part of the pet owner. Rick Lauber, the author of The Successful Caregiver’s Guide and Caregiver’s Guide for Canadians, explains that “pets require a commitment and can become very costly, with pet parents having to provide them with food and cover any potential veterinarian bills.” Dogs especially can be very demanding on pet owners, as “they require regular walks, socialization, play, bathing and training” says Rick. For this reason, it’s important to consider the pet owner’s schedule and financial situation before gifting them a new furry friend, since “a pet cannot always be left to fend for itself if the owner works long hours and/or is out of town on business a good chunk of time.”

    Integrative veterinarian Dr. Carol Osborne highlights the need for pet owners to “be honest with themselves about the amount of time and work they are willing to put into a pet.” Since dogs live anywhere from 10-18 years (depending on their breed and size) and cats can live over 20 years, a pet could mean many years of providing food, vet care, exercise and love. Dr. Osborne emphasizes the fact that you should “remember that you are essentially adding another child to your family who will be with you for the next 10-15 years.”

  • What Is Their Lifestyle Like?

    Not everyone can accommodate every type of pet. Some pets do better in the countryside with lots of space to roam around, while others can just as easily thrive in small spaces and without constant attention from their owners. Before giving pets as gifts, consider the recipient’s lifestyle, whether they live in the city or country, and whether they have a house or apartment. Dr. Osborne recommends cats and sedate small dogs like Boston Terriers, Chihuahuas and Pugs for people who live in apartments and small homes.

    Climate is another important factor to consider for first time pet owners. “Some breeds may have a tough time depending on the climate,” explains Dr. Osborne. “A Husky or Malamute might have a tough time in Florida, and Pugs and breeds predisposed to breathing problems can also be affected by high heat and humidity.” Conversely, breeds that have less hair or no fur to keep them warm will most likely struggle in colder climates such as in Alaska.

  • What Is Their Family Situation?

    Being at home is only one thing to think about when it comes to owning a pet. For first time pet owners, it’s also important to consider the family situation and environment the pet would be brought into, as different pets do better in different environments. Rick suggests “considering the size and character of a pet” before choosing one. “Larger, less patient and more aggressive breeds of dogs, for instance, may not be ideal for families with young children,” he explains, which may cause both the pet and pet parents to be unhappy. Dr. Osborne highlights the fact that when giving pets as gifts, the most important thing to make a note of is the temperament of the breed, especially when kids are involved. She recommends breeds such as Labradors, Golden Retrievers, Shelties and Collies for families with quiet kids and highlights the advantage that cats bring in their variety from “Maine Coons that have a personality like dogs and are great for kids, to Siamese that do better with adults.”

Picking the right pet is a personal experience for many people, which is why Erin Askeland, Training Manager at Camp Bow Wow, warns that giving a pet is not always the best idea. Each person has different needs and preferences when it comes to welcoming a furry companion, so if you’re absolutely set on sharing the joy of having a pet with friends and family, consider the following tips:

Promote Adoption

There are far too many pets that don’t have a forever home and are waiting for the perfect family to adopt them from the shelter. Instead of gifting a new pet, consider giving a gift card for your local shelter, so the recipient can both choose the pet that best suits them and rescue a furry friend in need. Erin recommends this option because it allows recipients to go out and get the pet they want when they decide whether they truly want a pet and are prepared for one. So encourage your loved ones to adopt a dog or cat instead of purchasing one; it saves lives!

Give Useful Supplies

Another great alternative to gifting a pet is helping first time pet owners prepare for their new furry family member, by giving gifts centered around pets as opposed to pets themselves. Erin suggests things like “training classes, feeding bowls, pet beds, toys, leashes, vet gift certificates and collars” as helpful starter tools for new pet parents. Pet accessories work well, as they give recipients of the gift the freedom to pick their own pet while still receiving a present that they can use, such as a dog house, a warm blanket for a cat to curl up on, a cage for a bird, or an aquarium for a fish. Some good ideas for dog gifts include: the IRIS Airtight Food Storage Container & Scoop Combo, which keeps pet food dry and fresh, the Pet Zone Designer Diner Adjustable Elevated Pet Feeder, which helps reduce strain on dogs’ necks and joints at mealtime, the Frisco Fold & Carry Double Door Dog Crate that’s made of strong and durable materials, and Frisco Dog Poop Bags + Dispenser that always come in handy with their leakproof design. You can also start them off on the right paw by giving them a Hill’s Science Diet Small & Toy Breed puppy kit which will provide all of the essentials to keep their new pup healthy and satisfied.

Inform and Help New Pet Owners

Even if new pet parents are willing and wanting to bring in a new furry friend, they may not always know all the necessary information that comes with welcoming a new furry family member. Sometimes the perfect gift can be to lend a helping hand by informing first time pet owners of the do’s and don’ts when it comes to owning a pet. Rick suggests things such as “offering tips on how to pet-proof homes, giving advice on which plants may be hazardous to pets and repairing things in the backyard to ensure pet safety.” And you can always offer the best gift of all—pet sitting!


Having recently moved from rainy Oregon to the sunshine state, Anastasiya Chevtchenko spends her time catching rays by the beach, playing soccer with the locals, and embracing pet heaven – Chewy. A recent Penn graduate, Anastasiya works in Marketing where she hopes to bring in her expertise in international relations to expand the business. When she’s not facetiming her international friends or reading the news in five languages, Anastasiya spends her time working on PR projects, social media brand posts, and writing for Chewy’s Pet Central blog.

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