The holiday season brings special consideration for those who are thinking about adding a new pet to the family. This is a decision you must make with your heart and your head.

  • The first thing to consider is whether you and your family will have the time to spend orienting your new pet to your household. What’s the pace at your house normally, how it changes during the holidays, and the time you’ll have to spend with a new pet.
  • The additional cost a pet will mean to your budget every month for the rest of her life.
  • If there are plans for large family dinners and many strangers in and out of your house (as far as your new pet is concerned), it may be better to wait until after Christmas when things settle down.
  • If your household already has several pets, do you have the time for your new addition to get acquainted with them that is supervised, just in case territorialism arises over space or toys, or a new “pecking order” is established?
  • If you are considering a puppy, be realistic about the time it takes to crate and house train, play time and time to take the puppy outside to go to the bathroom. How will you react when the puppy does what puppies do–chew on anything in site until they learn which toys are theirs to chew on?
  • Even house trained adult animals can have accidents in a new place as they get to know you and you get to know the signs they give for “time to go out.”
  • Are you willing to make the lifetime commitment your new pet deserves? Are you willing to work through potential behavioral issues that might come up? The pet you adopt has already been abandoned at least once. Don’t be the next person to abandon him again because things “didn’t work out.”

While the holidays usually mean the highest adoption rates at shelters, by January, many of those pets are returning as reality sets in. Be sure this is what you want to do and plan to make more than one visit to the shelter as there are new dogs, cats, bunnies, sometimes even guinea pigs, coming in all the time. Be honest when you talk to shelter or rescue adoption counselors so they can help you find the best “fit.”

Remember, the animals in shelters and rescues are safe and warm. For those who have spent weeks or months on their own as strays, it is a comfort to get regular meals and to have someone speak kindly to them rather than shooing them away. As for puppies and kittens, as long as they have another puppy or kitten to play with, they can make any day a holiday.

There are no warranties on pets. But there are three things you can always count on: they will love you unconditionally; they will share your joys and sorrows; and no matter how your day has gone, the simple act of a pat on the head or belly rub helps melt the stress away. In many ways, adopting a shelter pet during the holidays is the ultimate gift because you save the life of another living being, and that falls into the category of priceless. Just be sure you won’t be standing in the returns line when the holidays are over because in this case, the item you return will know exactly what is happening.