Forget the age old question of “to be or not to be.” The real question is “to give or not to give”…a pet, that is! With the holidays approaching, you have probably already started to think about gift ideas. And what’s better and more unique than a brand new pet? In our opinion, absolutely nothing! However, caring for a pet is a huge responsibility. Pets require attention, money, and a long-term commitment.  For this reason, a pet should never be given as a gift without careful consideration about both the pet’s potential level of care and the person’s ability and willingness to care for it. Much like choosing the right animal hospital, the decision to give a pet as a gift should not be made hastily.

So before you run to the nearest pet store cash in hand, here are some things you should think about first. The answers to these questions will help you determine whether a pet as a present is truly a good decision or not.

Has your loved one expressed interest in owning a pet?

Perhaps the biggest indicator of whether or not to give a pet as a gift is the recipient’s level of interest. No one wants an unwanted gift (especially one that barks or meows and can’t be exchanged for store credit). To ensure your loved one really wants a pet, you’ll need to gauge their feelings on the matter. If they “oh” and “aw” every time they pass by an animal, that’s generally a good sign. But it’s not enough! There’s a big difference from thinking pets are cute and cuddly to actually wanting to care for one every day.  If you’re not one-hundred percent positive your loved one would be thrilled to receive a pet as a present, chances are you shouldn’t give one.

Do they have the time and resources to care for a pet?

Good pet care involves more than food and water and absent-minded pats on the head. To be an excellent pet owner and give a cat or dog the love and attention it deserves, the owner must not only want a pet, they must be able to adequately care for it. This means they must have the financial resources to both feed the pet and support the pet’s health needs with regular wellness visits to a qualified veterinarian. Apart from having the financial capability to care for a pet, a good pet owner must also have time to devote to their pet. Grooming, walking, feeding, and playing with a pet all take time…time that not everyone wants to spend in such ways.

Does the recipient live in a pet-friendly place?

If the answers to both of the above questions are unequivocally yes, then the last factor to consider is whether or not the recipient’s living situation is suitable for a pet. First determine whether or not the person owns or rents their home. If they rent, there are likely certain rules laid out by the apartment complex or landlord regarding pets. If possible, find out whether pets are permitted on the premise. Beyond the matter of renting or owning, you’ll also want to take into account the space of the recipient’s home. Some homes are not equipped to handle the addition of a pet due to spacial limitations or other structural issues. Find out as much information as you can regarding the recipient’s living situation to ensure the place is fit for a pet to live in.

The reasons to give a pet as a gift are plenty. After all, pets provide joy, comfort, companionship and purpose—traits no traditional store-bought gift could offer. But if given to a person who isn’t completely enthused or equipped to provide the best pet care possible, the well-meaning gift could have disastrous results. Before you give a pet as a gift, think long and hard about it, and consider if it would be in the best interest of both the recipient and the pet!