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When & When Not to Give a Pet as a Gift

dog with bow

It’s that time of year when the temperatures go down, holiday decorations pop up, and everyone is checking off lists left and right. One of your plans is likely a gift list for those near and dear to your heart. But, deciding what to get your friends and family for Christmas can be a daunting task. If someone close to you is an animal lover, you might be tempted to give him a pet, but are pets a good gift?

When it comes to gifting someone with a dog or cat, or some other type of animal, there are a lot of different factors to consider. So, before you buy that cute kitty or precious pup for your sister’s kids or your best friend, make sure you’ve covered all your bases.


Should You Give Someone a Pet as a Gift?


There really isn't a straightforward yes or no answer to this question, at least not across the board. A pet is a very personal gift, and when you give someone a pet, you're also giving them a lot of responsibility. Therefore, whether to give someone a pet as a gift depends highly on the recipient.


Questions to Ask Before Gifting a Pet


Before you even think about giving someone a pet, ask yourself these questions first:

  • Has this person mentioned wanting a pet? If so, what kind of pet has he spoken about the most?
  • Does this person have the time necessary to care for the type of pet you plan to give him? For example, a dog is a lot more work than a goldfish. Furthermore, a new puppy is a TON of work, so make sure you know what your friend is prepared to handle.
  • Likewise, does the potential giftee have the wiggle room in his budget to afford a new pet? If not, do you plan to handle all the costs associated with your gift?
  • Does the person you want to give a pet live alone or with other people? If others live in the home, are they okay with having an animal in the house?
  • Like the above, does this person already have pets, or does he have children? If so, it's essential to consider how the pet you are planning to give gets along with other animals and kids. 
  • Does your friend, or anyone that he lives with, have any allergies that could be aggravated by a pet?
  • Where does the giftee live? Does it allow animals? For example, you wouldn’t want to give your best friend a cute pup, only to learn after the fact that his apartment complex does not allow dogs of any kind.
  • If your planned gift recipient does live in an apartment or other type of multi-family housing, and the complex does allow pets, ensure you know the rules. For example, does the complex only allows cats or dogs under 20 pounds? Also, if the residence requires a pet deposit, are you prepared to give the deposit in addition to the pet?

Even if all your answers to these questions point toward moving forward with your pet purchase, you still need to tread lightly. There is a right way and a wrong way to gift someone a pet.

kitten in bag

The Right Way to Give Someone a Pet


If you are thinking about giving a pet as a gift, it’s best if you don’t make it a total surprise. In other words, the lucky recipient should be a part of the process. When you involve the giftee, this is the best way to ensure that you give him the exact pet he wants and that the pet will have a new forever home.  

Therefore, talk with your friend and find out, first, if he is interested in having a pet. If so, what kind of pet does he want? Ideally, your friend should be a part of the pet-picking process to ensure he finds a suitable match for both his living arrangement and personality. Take your friend with you on your pet search, and let your friend choose his pet. 

You might also consider getting your friend’s new pet a few necessary supplies too. If you get a new pup for your pal, you might include some basics like dog bowls, a dog bed, and a leash and collar. If your friend opts for a kitten, then your gift might include a litter box and scoop; you get the idea.

You can work out the details with your friend about how you will cover the costs, but the essential thing is, your friend knows the gift is coming. Therefore, he wants it, which means he will accept it willingly and with lots of appreciation and enthusiasm.

petting dog in cage

How to Find Someone the Perfect Pet

As previously mentioned, finding your friend the pet that makes the perfect match for him and his lifestyle involves your friend being a part of the process. You can then start your search on sites like or by contacting your local shelters or any specific rescue organizations that your friend is interested in. 

After all, if you’re going to give your friend a pet, why not help an animal in need at the same time? If your pal wants a dog, and you decide to purchase his canine companion from a breeder, make sure you both take the time to find a reputable breeder with spotless references. Avoid puppy mills at all costs, no matter what kind of “deal” you think you are getting.  

When making your final decision, ask lots of questions about the animal. Find out about the animal’s background, habits, any special needs or health issues, temperament, and other important facts and bits of information.


When Is Giving a Pets as Gifts a Bad Idea?


On the flip side of giving a pet as a gift being a good thing, it can also be a really, really bad idea. This is especially true if the gift recipient has NO idea you are about to give him a new pet. Even riskier is if you aren’t even sure if your friend wants the kind of pet you’re giving him

When people give pets as gifts as a complete surprise, this is one of the biggest reasons people return animals to shelters. You might think you’re doing a great thing, but the reality is, your friend is ill-prepared for a pet, not able or willing to handle the responsibility, or lacks the time and money to care for his new pet properly.  

Therefore, if you haven’t discussed it with your friend first, no matter how much you want it to be a surprise, don’t give your friend a pet as a gift.


Be Prepared for a Returned Pet


If you go against your better judgment and give your pal a pet, without his prior knowledge, he might seem really excited at first. And you never know, it all might work out just fine. But, more than likely, there will be some wrinkles in the plan, and it won’t go the way you hoped. 

Therefore, if you do decide to surprise your friend with a new animal roomie, at least consider the possibility that your friend will return the pet. In this case, would you be willing to keep the animal yourself? At least this way, this animal that thought it was getting a home still is getting one, albeit not the one you originally intended. 

In a nutshell, giving someone a pet as a gift can be a fantastic present if the person has a say in the process. Otherwise, it could be a bigger surprise than either of you bargained for. Want more great ideas and tips on everything pet-related? Check out the rest of our blog! We’re always adding fresh content about caring for your furry friends, so you can be the best pet parent (and gift-giver) that you can be!

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