Holiday Adoption Do’s and Don’ts

Cat YawnFew gifts can bring as much joy to giver and receiver alike as a furry or feathered friend.

But along with the joy come responsibilities, especially around the holidays, when household stress, traffic and noise can be very high, and very disturbing to the new family member. So if you’re planning to give a pet as a gift, make absolutely sure that the recipient wants it, and will be willing to care for it. Otherwise, it might be best to consider an inanimate gift.

If a new pet is brought into the home at holiday time, the first concern should be its physical safety. (See Dr. Katie Gibson’s article on Holiday Hazards on page 4). After that, the new owners should make sure the new member gets the attention, inattention, space and regular routine needed to facilitate a smooth integration into the family.

Lauren Weldishhofer of Animal Compassion Network suggested that new owners should create a space for the new pet “away from the holiday hullabaloo”. That could mean a crate in a quiet spot for a new puppy, or a safe room for a cat. Weldishofer also suggested that people consider waiting until after the holidays to bring a new pet home. The forever friend might be picked out before the holiday, perhaps on a family outing to a shelter, but not brought home until after New Year’s. Once family life has returned to normal, the new pet will acclimate and bond better and faster as sanity reigns.

Tristan Rehner, Behavior and Training Coordinator at Brother Wolf Animal Rescue, recognized that the holidays can be the best of times and the worst of times for a family to adopt a pet. She stressed that puppies, in particular, need a regular routine, one thing the holidays rarely provide. She also said the extra attention paid to new pets could be very stressful, particularly if it comes from unfamiliar visitors.

Rehner said newly adopted pets would benefit from routine in both diet and schedule. She suggested that new pets be supplied with toys that could keep them amused and out of things they shouldn’t be into. And, like Weisdhorfer, Rehner recommended that new pets be provided a sanctuary to which they can retreat when the holidays get too happy in their new home.

“Consistency and sanctuary,” Rehner said, are what make for a successful holiday adoption.

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