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5 Gifts Your Pet Brings You Today and Every Day

One of the greatest honors you could bestow on your animal companion today is to recognize and appreciate the gifts he or she brings to your life not just during the holidays, but every day of the year. Want even more meaning and joy in your life? Make it a goal to do this in the New Year.

5 gifts your pet brings you

STORY AT-A-GLANCE

  • Our furry family members bring us so many gifts to appreciate and enjoy on Christmas Day and every day of the year
  • The gifts we receive from our animal companions include connection, communication, living in the moment, forgiveness, and a life in balance
  • If you’re looking for a way to make a real difference in in the new year, consider adopting or fostering a pet from your local shelter or rescue
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On this most wonderful day of the year, I'd like to take a moment to reflect on the gifts our animal companions bring to our lives not just during the holidays, but every day of the year.

5 Gifts Our Pets Offer on Christmas Day and Everyday

  1. Connection — Our animal companions stay connected to us no matter how bad we feel or behave. They’re right beside us every step of the way, every minute of the day. During times when we feel ignored or disengaged from the world, our pets offer unconditional attention and affection.
  2. Communication — Close, connected relationships evolve from clear, consistent communication. When communication is untrustworthy or used in harmful ways, the relationship breaks down. Our pets speak to us constantly through their body language and behavior. It’s our job to learn the language they speak, and to communicate clearly to them what we expect and appreciate about their behavior.
  3. Being present — Humans tend to spend a lot of time feeling regret for something in their past or feeling anxious about the future. It’s not time well spent, but many of us tend to live in the past or the future rather than the present. Our pets, by their example, help us to stay present — to live for today. Our animal companions experience each moment as it arrives with enthusiasm and joy, and so can we if we follow their lead.
  4. Forgiveness — Most of us can remember a time when we ignored our pet, or lost patience and spoke too sharply. We also remember that our loyal companion forgave us the very next second. Our animal friends don’t hold grudges. They don’t punish themselves or us by clinging to past insults. They offer instant forgiveness and an open heart.
  5. Balance — Our furry family members are at their best when we provide them with consistency in the form of healthy nutrition, plenty of exercise, structure to their daily routine, and lots of love. These are the simple things in life that form the foundation for a balanced, less stressful, more joyful existence.

Why Not Celebrate the New Year With a New Furry Friend?

If you want to bring more meaning and joy into your life next year, consider adopting a dog or cat from your local shelter or rescue organization. Many “pandemic pets” have been surrendered, along with pets whose families are experiencing hard times financially.

If you’re able to offer a shelter pet a new forever home, you’ll find your life enriched in so many ways. The unconditional love and loyalty of a dog, cat, or other animal companion can alleviate depression, ease loneliness, lower blood pressure, and give you a reason to get up every day.

In addition, there are few things as warm and comforting on a cold winter evening as a cat asleep in your lap. If one of your goals for the new year is to lose weight and get in shape, a dog who loves to walk or run outdoors can be just the incentive you need to start exercising regularly.

There are countless benefits to being a pet parent, and when you know you saved your furry companion from an undetermined fate, it makes the bond you share that much stronger.

Why I Don’t Recommend Giving Pets as Christmas Gifts

As a general rule, I’m not a fan of giving pets as holiday gifts. This is because in most cases (not all, but most) the act is driven not by thoughtful planning but by impulse. Gifting a family member or friend with a 10-to-20-year commitment to a live animal is not something one should do on impulse.

It’s rare for people to plan well in advance to acquire a pet during the holidays. It’s much more common for people who have planned well to add a pet to the family at virtually any other time of the year.

If you subtract Christmas week from the rest of the year, you still have 358 days to bring a new furry loved one into your home and heart. Chances are, if you visit your local shelter in late January or February, you’ll have your pick of pets who’ve already worn out their welcome as Christmas gifts. Sadly, it happens every year. If that’s not enough incentive, here are a few more things to consider.

  • Pets shouldn’t be surprises — Surprising a loved one with a puppy or kitten on Christmas morning is a romantic but usually misguided idea. Yes, the recipient may be extremely excited and happy with a new puppy or kitten, but unless the “surprise” has actually been well researched and thoroughly planned for, it can be a risky thing to do.

    It’s hard to resist a warm, furry little bundle under the tree on Christmas morning. But unless the new pet parent is wholly committed to the idea of raising a puppy or kitten, the bloom can come off the rose in a hurry.

    In my experience, it’s best to let a prospective pet owner, no matter what age, be very engaged every step of the way in selecting a new pet and preparing in advance for the homecoming.
  • A pet for a child shouldn’t be viewed as a new toy — A living creature shouldn’t be considered the same kind of “wow” Christmas gift as, say, a new bike or the latest video game. Caring for a dog, cat, or other pet is a big responsibility and far different from getting a new toy that is taken out, played with, and put away again.

    It’s important to impress upon a child the difference between her belongings and her pet, from the very first minute a new dog or cat enters her life.

    Even if your youngster is pleading for a pet and you think he or she is old enough to take on the responsibility, I recommend you keep the “pet project” separate from the holiday festivities. Adding a dog or cat to the household is a big undertaking all on its own, so my advice is to plan for it accordingly, and not around the holidays.
  • Pet stores, backyard breeders, puppy mills (need I say more?) — In the weeks leading up to Christmas, certain disreputable individuals and businesses are bursting at the seams with all the latest popular puppy models. Most of these babies are shipped in from puppy mills. Some are healthy. Many are not. Most are bred and born in inhumane, often filthy conditions.

    Every time a dog is purchased from an irresponsible breeder or mill operator, it is incentive for those businesses to stay up and running. So, while you may give a puppy mill baby a good home for Christmas, her mother remains back at the mill, having litter after litter until she’s too sick or old to reproduce — at which point she’s disposed of.

    Since some shelters and rescue organizations shut down adoptions this time of year to prevent problems associated with giving pets as Christmas gifts, there’s a greater tendency by people who would ordinarily adopt to go the pet store or backyard breeder route. Please don’t be one of them. Wait till the holidays are over and visit your local shelter or rescue organization.

    If you are looking to buy a purebred puppy or kitten, the only ethical option is to spend time researching heritage or preservation breeders that intentionally breed for diversified genetics and resiliency. Use my breeder questionnaire as a guide to assess the quality of prospective breeders.

How to Help Homeless Pets

If you're not able to provide a permanent home for a pet but are interested in making a real hands-on difference in the lives of homeless animals, there are many ways to help, depending on your time, resources and talents.

Many people volunteer at a local shelter for a certain number of hours each week or month, while others have pets in need come to them, by serving as foster families for animals awaiting adoption. Pets are fostered for a variety of reasons, including:

  • An overflowing shelter
  • An animal with special needs — she might be pregnant or nursing, or recovering from an injury, illness, or surgery
  • A kitten or puppy still too young to be adopted
  • A pet showing significant stress-related behavior (pacing or hiding, for instance)
  • An animal who has never lived in a home or had much contact with people who needs to be socialized to a home environment

Fostering triggers a positive domino effect. The more people willing to open their homes to foster pets, the more pets local shelters can accommodate, and for longer periods. This gives each animal the best shot at finding a new home.


Today's Pet Video:

Fluffy Kitten Plays With Tree Ornaments

Meet a tiny kitten named Zlata, doing what kittens love to do best at Christmas or any other time: play with low-hanging ornaments, and she’s not much bigger than they are!