If thinking about a pet for Christmas, think it through

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 14, 2006

In our mind’s eye there is probably nothing that warms the heart more than a small child and a puppy or kitten. Add to that the surprise of finding that little fuzzy ball of fur under the Christmas tree and it can bring tears to even the biggest of men.

But if your plans are to surprise your little one with a pet this Christmas, we implore you to think this plan all the way through and be sure of what you are doing.

First and foremost in caring for any animal is the cost. While it may not take a lot of money to secure the animal, it will cost you hundreds a year to care for it.

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– Food

– Preventive maintenance (shots, physicals, other necessary treatments)

– Spay or neuter

– Emergencies — if these occur during the hours your veterinarian is open, you are quite fortunate. Most of them are going to happen at the most inopportune times, meaning you will pay a hefty fee on top of the treatment just to get into an emergency vet clinic after hours.

Consider the age of the child or children who are receiving this pet. Are they truly old enough and responsible enough to care for this pet? Somebody is going to have to, and chances are it will fall to the adults in the home, which begs the question, are you ready?

Maybe you think the pet will teach your child responsibility. The experts will tell you that it is unreasonable to assume that a child in their early years will be able to care for the animal in an appropriate manner.

The excitement of the puppy or kitten under the tree will more than likely wane, and with some children, this may happen quickly. And then the animal is ignored.

Young animals can suffer from separation anxiety, causing them become destructive. Puppies can chew through a pair of shoes in a few minutes and cats can scratch your furniture beyond repair. Are you ready for that?

Bringing a pet into the home can also bring about angst in one or more of the children, especially if the animal is now getting all of the attention — the attention the child or children were used to receiving. That can bring about resentment for the animal.

This could bring about aggressive behavior toward the animal, which could lead to injury or death.

Then there is the life expectancy of the pet. It is not unheard of for dogs and cats to live 15 years or longer. And as they age, they will need more care, which will cost more money.

Before you go out and get that puppy or kitten, take all of these things into consideration. Then, if you have thought it through, and you are prepared to take on this important responsibility, then go for it. You won’t regret your decision, as long as it is made with the head and not the heart.