A Pet is For Life, Not Just For Christmas


If you’ve ever met me, you know that my cats are my only personality trait. Our Instagram depicts our lives as a kind of floofy fairytale: endless kitty cuddles and cozy pics taken while we snuggle together in bed.  As a result, many people have told me that they want to duplicate our lives for themselves. So, I get inundated with questions: where did I get my cats? Why are we so happy together? And this line of questioning often ends up in one very disconcerting place: ‘I want a kitten for Christmas!’ 

This is a common refrain from all too many people and it chills me every time. Because, as cliché as it sounds, it’s true: a pet is for life, not just for Christmas. My cats and I didn’t get our fairy-tale life because I decided, on impulse, to buy a cute little ball of fluff. 

All of my cats are rescues. They are the ‘children’ I’ve chosen to have— the family to whom I’ve made a lifelong commitment. To me, their lives are precious gifts indeed; our family is the thing I treasure most in this world. But embracing the gift of family is very different from giving someone’s life as a gift, as if it holds no more significance than a new sweater. Your aunt gives you a necklace you hate? You don’t have a lifetime commitment to that necklace. You can throw it away, regift it, or donate it to a charity shop. You can let it languish in a dresser drawer for years while you forget about it. 

The regrettable truth is that people who give pets as gifts often maintain that same attitude toward animals. People who give pets as gifts rarely think beyond that ‘cute, fluffy fairy-tale’ ideal.  Often, that’s because people have a certain vision in their heads— a concept of the ‘perfect pet’ and the adventures they want to have together. But just as you can’t control your children’s personalities, you don’t get to dictate who your pet turns out to be. 

For example, my Everlie is my best friend. She’s the perfect cat for me. She’s funny and cuddly and she loves to sleep on my face. We live to spend time together. Elliot, on the other hand, could not be more different. He’s cold, snarky, and indifferent; all he wants is to eat and be left alone. So, if I were designing my ‘perfect cat’, it wouldn’t be Elliot. But that doesn’t mean that his life is disposable or that he is any less a member of our family because, at the end of the day, animals have unique personalities just like humans do. When I adopted Elliot, I made a lifetime commitment to love a new, permanent member of this family— no matter who he turns out to be. 

Yet, people who give pets as gifts often have a very different view. For example, let’s say you buy a kitten for your child because they love cats. You go through the typical spiel that parents often give their kids— ‘This pet is your responsibility, it’s up to you to feed him, look after him, etc.’

 …but what little kid has ever faithfully kept up with their responsibilities? In many cases, it’s not long before a child gets tired of scooping the litter box or gets frustrated when they learn that their pet has bodily autonomy of his own. So, when your new furry friend doesn’t want to play right now or it’s not fun to have responsibilities, many kids simply give up. 

The responsibility then falls to the parents, who may not be able to keep up with the added chores themselves, and then— before you know it— that fluffy little ball of joy becomes homeless. Maybe they’re dumped in a shelter, like Everlie was as a kitten. Maybe they’re tossed on the side of the road like Elliot was when he was less than a month old. Either way, their stories rarely have a happy ending, which has caused many animal charities to launch campaigns begging families not to give pets as Christmas gifts. 

When you think about it in this light, it’s easy to see why giving pets as gifts is unethical. Because the truth is, as much as someone might want a pet, it’s not always the best idea. For you, the gift of a pet might be as simple as an unexpected delight at Christmas. But for that animal, it’s their life. Their relationship with you determines what kind of life they’re going to have— and that’s a lot more serious than wrapping paper, bows, and the delight of a ball of floof under the tree. 

So, if you want a floofy fairy-tale of your own— what can you do? Start by doing some research and speaking to animal charities so you can learn more about the type of pet that would be a good fit for you. Evaluate your time, space, and resources and ask yourself if you’re capable of giving a pet the love and attention they need. 

If you’ve thoughtfully considered all of these factors, then you can take the next step and approach a rescue centre to find the companion that’s right for you. And when you cultivate a mindful and loving relationship with your pet, you’ll discover that their lifelong friendship is the greatest gift of all.


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