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Getting a pet for Christmas: five considerations

Almost every family with children will sooner or later hear the question "Can I get a dog for Christmas?". And while opening your home to an animal can be a wonderful, rewarding experience, there are some things you should consider before taking the plunge.

Last year alone, dog welfare charity Dog Trust received 4,827 calls from people wanting to give up their dogs just a month after Christmas. That's almost 5,000 abandoned dogs. With the slogan “A dog is for life, not just for Christmas”, the charity urges people to think twice before giving pets as gifts.

What you should consider

1. Your home

Your pet will need basic supplies like a bed, toys, accessories and food. Do you have the space to accommodate a dog? If you are considering a small animal, such as a hamster, it’s worth bearing in mind they are nocturnal, so you'll need a quiet room where they can rest undisturbed during the day. Needless to say, they may be noisy during the night.

2. Your lifestyle

Having a pet changes your routine. Dogs require feeding and walking several times a day and indoor cats will need their litter tray cleaned daily. Your dog will need frequent walks, often on demand, which may require getting up earlier in the mornings and venturing out late in the evenings (sometimes during rain and snow). Pets need attention, company – and grooming! Many dogs do not cope well with being alone for any considerable length of time. Are you prepared to take on this responsibility?

3. Additional costs

Good-quality food is essential, but also flea and worm treatments, vaccinations, microchipping and at least one yearly visit to the vet. Pet insurance can help cover some of those unexpected veterinarian costs, but you'll be required to pay an annual or monthly fee that varies depending on age, medical history and breed.

4. Time and energy

All animals need daily exercise to thrive. For dogs, this can range from 30 minutes to two hours depending on their energy levels, and cats have a high instinct to chase, scratch and climb. Ask yourself if you'll have the willpower to walk your dog each morning, or the patience for a cat that has taken a liking to your sofa... as her favourite scratching post.

5. Travel

If you're frequently on the move, you'll need someone to look after your pet while you're away: whether it's a friend, family member or a sitter. This, of course, can add to the expense of owning a pet.

If you’re ready for a pet

You've done the research and you've thought long and hard about taking on a furry friend. The next stage is deciding which animal is right for you and your family.

Remember that puppies and kittens should not leave their mother too early. Most professional breeders will not allow their pups to go to their new homes until they are twelve weeks old, although some breeders see eight weeks as a reasonable time in which to leave their mum and offspring. However, those extra four weeks with their mother and littermates can improve the pups’ learning development and socialisation skills. Animals that have been taken from their mothers too soon may have trouble adapting to a new home and could develop behavioural problems.

If getting a puppy, ensure that it comes from the Kennel Club Assured Breeder list. However, we always recommend adoption as the first option. Animal rescue centres and shelters are overflowing with loving pets in need of a permanent home and these animals are usually health-checked, vaccinated and neutered.

While the dedication a pet needs is ongoing, the love you will get in return has no price. If you've decided a pet is for you, congratulations! We think you're in for a real treat.