cat in a gift box A puppy or kitten wearing a Santa hat and a huge red ribbon may make great social media photos, but before you allow a pet onto the Christmas list, ask yourself this question – is your family truly ready for life with a new pet?

More pets are sold during the Christmas season than any other time of year – and after the holidays, shelters take in an abundance of unwanted animals. Adding a pet shouldn’t be an impulse buy.

Unlike the highly desired toys that may end up at the bottom of your child’s closet in another few weeks, a puppy or kitten is a living creature that requires someone’s (probably your) daily care and attention – even when the novelty wears off.

Try before you buy.
A great way to see if your child is ready for a pet is to petsit or volunteer in a shelter. The more information you have, the better decision you’ll make. This can teach your child exactly what’s required to care for a pet. After all, cleaning the litter box for a cat or walking a dog can’t be optional or sporadic.

It can also give you insight into how much time is required for care and feeding. We know a family who housesat a dog lately, and discovered that they just couldn’t make it home often enough to let the dog out of the crate. They opted for a guinea pig, which suits their lifestyle much better.

Wait until the 12th Day of Christmas.
If you do decide to get a pet for Christmas, consider giving a certificate for getting one after the holiday is over. Invite members of your family to research what type of animal might suit the way you live. Planning ahead allows you all to discuss the joys and responsibilities involved.

Introducing a puppy or kitten on Christmas morning can be confusing for all. To a small animal, anything on the floor is fair game – so ribbons, wrapping paper, small toys and Christmas candies invite them to chase, chew, and try to digest. For your family, sleeping in during your winter holiday may be a thing of the past when a new puppy cries all night, or needs to be taken out early in the morning.

Adopting a pet will enrich your life every day, and we want to encourage you in that decision. But you should also consider every aspect of your decision, and make wise choices at the best time of year for you and your family.