How to buy someone a pet as a gift


Kaleigh Steinorth

Kaleigh Steinorth

Blog author Kaleigh Steinorth

Kaleigh Steinorth writes for PolicyGenius, a digital insurance brokerage trying to make sense of insurance for consumers.

Published December 12, 2014|5 min read

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In this post we help you Reduce the risk of of an awkward Christmas morning

It always looks so cute in the movies—the boyfriend hands over a box to an unsuspecting girlfriend, she unties the ribbon and opens it, and an adorable puppy jumps out. The girlfriend is overjoyed, and the boyfriend gets serious brownie points. But if you want to recreate this moment in real life, you've got to do your research first. Giving someone a pet as a gift means you're also giving them responsibilities that can last for years. If the recipient is ready for this, your gift could bring a long and loving relationship with a furry friend. And if the recipient isn't, there could be misery in store for everyone involved. Be sure to follow these tips to guarantee that the animal you give is welcomed into a loving home.

1. Make sure the recipient wants a pet.

Some surprises are great, like surprise parties, or when you find $5 in your pocket. However, if a person has never said they’d want a pet, you should not surprise them with a pet as a gift. Psychology Today states that if you’re buying someone an animal as a gift, you should know they have a serious interest in taking care of that animal. Some examples would be that they are constantly talking about how much they want a dog, and they don’t let every plant they buy for their apartment die a slow death. If you know that this person wants a pet, and maybe has even hinted that they would love a pet as a gift, go for it. According to a survey conducted by the ASPCA, 96% of people who were given pets as gifts said it either had no impact on or increased their love and attachment to the pet.

2. Make sure they have the time and resources to take care of a pet

Pets can bring joy and companionship into their owners’ lives, but they also bring a large time commitment and substantial financial responsibility. According to the ASPCA, the average annual cost of a medium-sized dog, including health insurance, is $695. For cats, it’s $670. If you are unsure of whether or not your gift recipient has the means to take care of an animal, do not buy them one. Make sure you consider the recipient’s living situation when thinking of buying them a pet. If they live in a tiny apartment, take that into consideration, and maybe get them a smaller dog. If they work extremely long hours, consider adopting an older dog who is okay with being left alone, or make sure they can afford to hire a dog walker. Emily Weiss of the ASPCA blog suggests giving the recipient a pet starter kit to help ease the transition, with food, toys, a leash, enrichment devices and collars. Doing this will help the new owner feel less overwhelmed and ensure the pet is brought into a home that’s prepared to welcome it.

3. Get them a pet that’s right for them.

Pairing a new pet with the right owner is as much art as science, but there are things you can do to increase the odds of making a good match. First, know what kind of animal your loved one prefers. Some people are strictly cat people or dog people, and you don’t want them to feel obligated to take care of a pet they didn’t really want. Next, pick a breed appropriate for the recipient’s personality. The website Dogtime has a breakdown of dog breeds, their personalities and needs, which you could use to match that of your loved one. For example, if you think your giftee will want an active and playful dog, Dogtime has an entire category of sporting dogs. If your loved one is more of a homebody, you could choose a breed from the Companion Dogs section that has a low exercise need on their rating system. You might also want to take into account your friend or family member’s plans for the future, like if they might be moving or having a child soon. Doing the necessary research before you give a pet as a gift will help you make certain that the new owner is surprised in a good way.

4. Give a pet without actually giving a pet.

If you feel like your loved one wants a pet, but you don’t feel comfortable making the final decision on which pet to get, Web MD suggests paying for the pet’s adoption fees up front, so your loved one can go and find the animal that’s the right fit for them. Cesar’s Best gives a similar idea, saying that you could wrap up a stuffed animal or a few accessories the pet would need, and plan to go with your loved one to pick out the pet the next day. When it comes to giving pets as presents, making sure your actions are in the pet’s best interest is most important, and if you’re not sure what your giftee would like, it’s best to let them choose.

Pets can be the best companion to someone’s life, and you might mean well with your gift, but some people need to see how they interact with an animal before bringing it home. If you feel your loved one might want this, paying donation fees in advance or offering to purchase the pet they pick out will make sure everyone gets what they need. And if you make an informed decision, when your girlfriend unwraps the puppy box, she’ll definitely be crying happy tears.

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