The Best Pets for Christmas Gift-Giving This Year: You May Be Surprised
Every year, animal shelters and rescue organizations release public service announcements urging people not to give pets as presents. Still, countless well-intentioned individuals end up searching for the best pets for Christmas gifts.
Pets enrich our lives in remarkable ways, so it makes sense that you’d want to share that experience with others.
In reality, though, the best pets for Christmas gift-giving are probably not what you think.
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The Best Pets for Christmas Don’t Exist: Here’s Why
Adding a pet to your family is a big decision that takes a lot of planning. Not only can the wrong pet impact its new family’s quality-of-life, but the animal itself could end up suffering from neglect or abuse.
The cost of a new pet isn’t just the adoption or purchase cost, either. Even healthy pets can rack up thousands of dollars worth of food, supply, toy, and veterinary fees within just a year. Many people aren’t in a financial position to take on these costs.
“We’ve planned to get a new pet for a while, so it’s different.”
Unfortunately, no. Even if everyone is on board with bringing a furry friend into the family, it’s best to skip the surprise.
Placing a puppy or kitten under the tree on Christmas morning eliminates the chance to see if its personality meshes with everyone in the household.
The excitement of a Golden Retriever will wear off quite fast when you realize the dog hates children (or cats, or men, or your resident pup).
“Kids need a chance to learn responsibility.”
This is very true. But is teaching that responsibility worth the happiness, health, and potential life of a living thing?
Not to mention, young kids are physically incapable of caring for most pets on their own. When you give a child a pet as a gift, you’re really giving the animal to their parents.
“It’s just a turtle (or fish or hamster or mouse or finch).”
Most reasonable people know how big of a commitment owning a dog or cat is. Sadly, many of these same people don’t feel the same way about small or non-mammalian pets.
For example, fish take more care than most people realize. The average pet fish is in a tank far too small for its emotional and physical wellbeing. Fish tanks also require regular cleaning and maintenance.
“I’m buying the pet as a gift for myself.”
This is the only case where buying a pet as a holiday gift is acceptable. If, that is, you’ve thought long and hard about the decision.
Never, ever introduce an animal into your home without doing thorough research. This applies to anything from a tetra fish to a Great Dane. You want to know ahead of time if you will be able to meet all of the animal’s physical needs.
If you live with other people, they need to be a part of the discussion, too. It might be “your” pet, but it’s still wrong to spring that surprise on your family or housemates.
5 Fun and Thoughtful Alternatives to Gifting a Pet This Holiday Season
Some of these gifts replicate the excitement of receiving a four-legged friend on Christmas morning. Others help teach the importance of responsibility to young kids begging for a pet of their own.
Whatever type of gift you’re looking for, rest assured: You’re sure to find a safe, ethical, and affordable alternative to gifting a live pet this holiday season.
1. Adoption certificates
Are you or another family planning to get a pet in the near future? We’ve explained how surprising someone with a live animal can end in disaster, but there are alternatives.
One of the best pets for Christmas is a rescue animal, but not in the sense you probably think! Many shelters, human societies, and rescues offer the equivalent of a gift card for adoptions.
You can ask how much the average adoption costs and cover the whole thing or get a voucher for a smaller amount.
This is a great way to give a thoughtful gift while also supporting your local animal rescue organization.
2. An “empty” aquarium
Gifting the supplies for a functioning aquarium lets young children practice responsibility before adding live animals to the mix.
The idea is to replicate the setup and maintenance of a fish tank without putting live animals at risk. You can fill the empty aquarium with colorful decor just like if it contained fish.
If you’re not sure where to start, something like the TetraCare 20 Gallon GloFish Kit is a great all-in-one option. You may even find out that it was a cool aquarium they wanted all along — not actual fish.
To avoid confusion, make it clear that the aquarium will stay fishless for the time being. But make sure your gifted aquarium is large enough to hold fish in the future.
If water and decorations don’t quite cut it, consider gifting some living aquatic plants as well. There are countless attractive plants that require the same care and attention as some beginner fish species — great practice for future fish owners!
3. Collar and dog tags
Do you want to surprise your family with the addition of a new pup (young or old — we know they’re all puppies at heart)? We promise that opening a gift box containing a dog collar will be just as exciting as the “real” thing.
A blank tag will do the trick just fine. If you know you’re new best friend’s name, though, having the collar or tag engraved is even better.
Or, get extra cheesy with a tag that says “Giftee’s Name‘s Dog.”
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4. Butterfly habitat
Countless nature-loving adults have fond memories of raising caterpillars as children (or still find themselves hunting for chrysalises every year). You can give the gift of caring for and watching a living creature grow with the Insect Lore Butterfly Garden.
This kit comes with a voucher for live caterpillars, but you can also encourage your giftee to rescue injured or at-risk ones they find in nature — with adult supervision, of course.
This gift can even teach children the importance of caring for endangered species like the monarch butterfly. They will also learn how to let go of their “pets” when they’re all grown-up and ready to take to the skies.
5. Moss balls
In many ways, the best pets for Christmas are not animals but plants! Marimo moss balls are living plants that float around in the water, giving the illusion of swimming.
Marimo moss balls are an incredible gift for any age. Adults will enjoy the tranquil aesthetic of their little aquarium perched on a bookshelf or work desk. Children will be enthralled by their new “pets” and learn the responsibility of caring for a living thing.
The No products found. has everything needed to start one of these moss habitats. There’s no filter or special chemicals required, just occasional water changes.
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Gift Responsibly This Year (Fido Will Thank You!)
With so many amazing gift ideas to choose from, there’s no reason for a live pet to be on your holiday shopping list. Even if a new family member is in the foreseeable future, there are plenty of ways to celebrate this announcement without any of the risks.
In the end, this decision will be better for you, your family, and the adorable pet in question.
How did you know when your family was ready for a new pet? Do you have any tips or tricks for teaching children the responsibility of pet ownership? Let us know in the comments!
Last update on 2021-04-17 at 19:35 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API