Around this time of year lots of little boys and girls are writing their Christmas lists to their parents and to Santa. They may want the latest fad, traditional lego or something completely different. But the thing that is at the top of a lot of children's lists is a pet.
The website Santa.co.uk has said that they receive many wish-list requests for a new pet for Christmas and they're appealing to parents not to succumb to the temptation. It can be very difficult - your child has been asking all year, Christmas seems like the perfect opportunity to reward them for being good. And besides, who doesn't love kittens and puppies? What's the worst that can happen?
The truth is, buying an animal without really considering all the implications that go along with pet ownership means that you're in for a difficult time, and the animal is always the one who suffers the most at the end of it. We, and other rescue centres around the UK see the fall-out: puppies and kittens are dumped in January, we receive countless phone calls during the summer months when puppies are now fully-grown dogs and families can't cope any more and the kittens bought as Christmas presents and then not neutered later on down the line churn out litters of kittens who inevitably end up in a cat pod looking for a new home. It places a huge burden on animal centres and results in animals being passed from pillar to post.
That's not to say that Christmas is never the right time to get a pet. Some people choose to come and adopt animals from us around Christmas time as all the family are at home to help settle the pet in. However, this is only the right thing to do if you have thought carefully about whether you are ready for a pet. Always consider the following:
1. Can you realistically care for your pet for its expected life-time? Cats and dogs can live anywhere from 10-20 years and rabbits can live up to 10 years
2. Do you have enough time to spend exercising your pet? Some dogs, for example Huskies, need hours of exercise daily and every dog needs regular walks
3. Can you provide the right environment for your pet?
4. Can you afford the costs associated with owning a pet? This includes feeding costs, microchipping, neutering, annual vaccinations, on-going flea and worm treatment, pet insurance and vet bills
5. Do you have enough time to spend interacting with your pet? For example, rabbits cannot simply be put in a hutch at the bottom of a garden
6. Have you properly researched the animal's needs to ensure you can provide for them?
7. If you are considering a puppy, have you thoroughly researched the breed correctly? Are you just choosing a dog based on appearance or the latest fad? Are you prepared for the realities of training a puppy?
8. Do you have the time to care for a pet? Children may want their own pet but realistically they will lose interest and it is you, the parent, who will end up with the responsibility
If you haven't thought about these points then this isn't the right time for you to take on a pet. If you have thought about these issues, feel that the time is right and would still like to get your child a pet for Christmas, how about turning the idea on its head. Rather than telling your child that you're buying them an animal for Christmas, how about telling them that you're giving the animal a home for Christmas? That way rather than teaching your child that pets can be treated like presents, you're teaching them about the value of animals.
Don't get a pet this Christmas because your child is begging you. Pets are a big commitment, financially, emotionally and with regards to time. So wait it until it's the right time, and the right pet, for your family. When you do feel the time is right, why not consider adopting an animal who really needs a home? You can view our pets for adoption here, or have a look on RSPCA Pet Search.
Communications & Volunteer Manager