Star-Bulletin Features

Friday, December 7, 2001


Puppies are cute and cuddly but they should never be given as gifts. The holidays may not be the best time to bring a new companion animal home.

Pets a poor choice for
Christmas gift

By Hawaiian Humane Society

A puppy or kitten for Christmas sounds like the perfect gift. Such a surprise for your spouse, kids or friend -- and think of the photo opportunities!

In reality, Christmas may be the worst time to bring home a new pet. Think of what your family's life is like during the holidays, then imagine yourself in the puppy's shoes (or paws):

So much noise and confusion! People coming and going. Sometimes you're not even sure who lives in the house. One minute everyone is hugging you and playing with you, the next minute you're ignored. The house is full of wonderful smells and loads of toys (such as the Christmas tree, decorations and packages), but you get yelled at the minute you start to play with them.

Then someone leaves the door open, and you escape the craziness. More of that yelling ensues, accompanied by frenzied chasing. (That was sort of fun except for the yelling.) You relieve yourself under the Christmas tree -- a perfectly natural thing to do -- and yep, you guessed it. More yelling. Then you get locked in a little room, all alone with a bunch of newspapers. You are lonely and scared. This is all very stressful!

Holiday introductions are no less stressful for an adult cat or dog. It takes time to make a pet part of your family. A regular daily routine, with special time allocated for your companion animal and no distractions, will give you and your new pet a much better chance to successfully adapt to each other.

And, regardless of the time of year, no animal should ever be given to someone else as a surprise gift. Even if someone has said to you, "Gee, I wish I had a pet," that doesn't mean they want one now, nor does it make it appropriate for you to choose a companion animal that will be theirs for the next 10 or 20 years.

Everyone who is going to live with the new pet should be involved in the selection, and this takes time. You and your family might need to make more than one visit before you decide on the right pet. After all, your new furry friend is going to be a member of your household for many years.

There are some preferred ways to say, "Surprise, you're getting a puppy," and then save the actual pet selection until after the holidays.

Buy a book about caring for a dog, and place it under the Christmas tree. Wrap up some pet food dishes and toys. Consider a gift certificate from the Hawaiian Humane Society, which can be used for an adoption or pet supplies such as collars and pet toys.

While the family is together opening gifts, remind the kids about the responsibility of being a "pet parent," and decide which animal chores will be assigned to each member of the household and how you will train your new pet. The children will learn that an animal is not a "toy" to be placed under the tree and ignored when newer toys are acquired.

Once the holidays are over, you'll have plenty of time to select your pet, and that wonderful holiday spirit, the joy of giving, will stay with you for years to come when you share your home and heart with an animal.

The Hawaiian Humane Society is at 2700 Waialae Ave., open noon to 8 p.m. Monday to Fridays and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. The incoming-animals desk is open 24 hours for receiving animals and responding to animal emergencies. If you have lost or found a pet, call 946-2187, Ext. 280. The Web site is

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