Things to consider before gifting a pet for Christmas

Tuesday , 12 December 2017 by Jo Lawrence-King

A cute puppy sitting under the Christmas tree may sound like a great gift idea, but it can sometimes lead to heartbreak for the animal – and the recipient.

Together, Southern Cross Pet Insurance (SCPI) and the SPCA are urging Kiwis to think twice before giving pets as presents this Christmas, starting with asking the recipient first whether they are ready to have a pet in their life and the commitment this entails.

Thinking of gifting a pet this holiday? Here are three things to ask the recipient:

  1. Can they make a long-term commitment?
    Welcoming a pet into the family takes a lot of time and energy. This doesn’t just mean taking him out to the toilet or feeding him daily. It also means finding someone to care for their pet when they go away on holiday, or making sure he receives adequate mental stimulation and regular exercise to prevent him from becoming bored or overweight. Most importantly, pets need lots of time, love, and attention. It’s important to ask whether the family will be home enough to give him the attention he needs.
  2. Do they have a pet friendly home?
    Is the home appropriate for an animal? Perhaps a fence needs to be built to keep a dog on the premises, or toxic plants need to be removed. For example, one playful dog ate some Karaka berries and ended up very ill. Luckily his owner had Southern Cross Pet Insurance, which saved him $1,295 in vet bills.
  3. Can they afford the ongoing cost of owning a pet?
    Animals don't just need food and water, they need appropriate shelter and living space, regular vet check-ups and preventative vet care to ensure they remain happy and healthy. If the unexpected happens, pet owners need to be sure they can afford the care their pet deserves.

SPCA New Zealand CEO, Andrea Midgen urges potential new pet owners (and givers) to think carefully about the long-term implications of caring for a pet. “Most pets are wholly dependent on their owners for their quality of life, so it is important to ensure you can properly care for your pet and understand its needs,” she says.

“It’s heart-breaking for both the animal and family if they are forced to give up their new family member because their lifestyle can’t accommodate a pet, or they can’t afford to look after it.”

Southern Cross Pet Insurance General Manager, Anthony McPhail agrees: “When your dog or cat is sick or injured, it’s a stressful time. There’s no public health system for pets, so you’re sometimes confronted with difficult decisions about how much care and treatment you can afford.

“Take one of the dogs on our books for example. She was hit by a car after escaping her dog walker and suffered multiple pelvic and iliac fractures. She had to undergo surgery; costing $23,924.54 in vet bills.

“Owners need to be able to commit to their pets for the life span of the animal – through the good times and the bad. Vet bills aren’t the only thing that can be overlooked by a well-meaning gift-giver. Pets need a warm bed, food to fill their bellies, exercise, and a whole lot of love,” McPhail adds.

For those who still have their heart set on gifting a pet this Christmas, Ms Midgen points out that, if you have had a conversation with the recipient and they are up for the commitment, adopting from the SPCA is a great way to go.

“For the SPCA, Christmas time means kitten season, so we’re preparing for an influx of thousands of animals who need our help.

“When you adopt from the SPCA, your new pet will be vet checked, behaviour tested, de-sexed, vaccinated and microchipped. But, most importantly, our team can help find the right pet for the recipient and their lifestyle.

“Another bonus is that Southern Cross Pet Insurance offers free puppy and kitten cover to pets between 6 and 20 weeks of age on claims up to $1,500 worth of vet tests and treatment,” says Ms Midgen.