Don’t gift animals for Christmas

Earlier this year, we opened up to a little black kitten with a white stripe on his back. She was left outside in the cold, covered in fleas and battling a nasty infection. After raising her for a while, we decided to make her a permanent member of our family.

Little Lou is about 3 months old, a mix of sweet and spicy, and a little mischievous. She immerses herself in everything and she seems drawn to potential dangers like her tree at Christmas. She stands undecorated in the family room, waiting for lights and ornaments. She hasn’t decorated yet because Lou thinks she’s her own jungle gym. She hopes she will get bored soon.

We’re glad Rue has had time to adjust to her new home and care for her before the busy holiday season. With all the temptations, excitements, and expenses that the holidays bring, the responsibility of caring for an animal can be overwhelming for a family. It is a miserable thing to do.

Among other things, Rue needed a new isolation collar, food, vaccines and sterilization. Considering how expensive Christmas is, she’s glad she didn’t have to pay for all those costs over the holidays: According to Forbes, the average cost of owning a cat in the US is $900 a year. Dogs cost an average of $1,480 per year. This is only basic and minimal care. Illness, an emergency trip to the vet, or other unexpected expenses can quickly set parents back thousands of dollars.

Holiday visitors, travel, and a busy schedule can make it difficult for animals to adjust to new homes, and make it difficult for parents to give them the attention and patient guidance they need. Although she’ll have more guests than usual next month, she’s confident that Rue is now comfortable enough in her own surroundings. And we’re familiar enough with her care routine — playing with her, feeding her, refilling her bowl with clean water, scooping her litter box, grooming her, cuddling her — No matter how busy the vacation is, we stick to it.

Many animals given as gifts are not loved or cared for like Lou. Or, after unprepared recipients find their care an undesirable responsibility, they end up in an animal shelter or are abandoned on the side of the road where they freeze to death or starve to death. Join countless other people.

Don’t give someone a living as a “gift” or feel like you exist. And if you can emotionally and financially care for a member of your animal family for the rest of your life (remember, many animals thrive well into his teenage years). Wait until after a hectic vacation to make welcoming them home a happy and successful one. that’s all.

You can collect presents for your future family members such as soft beds, dishes, lots of toys and treats, collars, food, toilets and leashes to create Christmas memories. I will leave it. You can also leave a note for all family members explaining that they will be adopting animal companions from the shelter once things settle down.

As for us, Christmas will be a little different this year: no fragile ornaments on the tree (even if you put them on) and ribbons removed from their packaging (attractive and dangerous for kittens). You have to be a little more careful with your spending. But these are all small sacrifices to help Rue spend Christmas (and all upcoming holidays) off the street and in a safe and warm home.

Melissa Rae Sanger is a Staff Writer for the PETA Foundation at 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510. This column was provided by the Tribune News Service.

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