Giving a Pet As a Gift: How to Make Sure Everyone Wins

Friday, December 12, 2014
It is possible to give a pet as a gift — if the circumstances are right.

woman with dogHas someone you love been talking about adding a pet to the family? It is possible to give a pet as a gift — if the circumstances are right. With detective work and realistic expectations, you might make some real holiday magic!

Don your detective hat

It’s time to separate dreams and wishes from real possibilities. You’ll need to be sneaky or have some frank conversations. Find out:

  • Does the recipient really want a pet? Is she ready for the day-to-day reality of living with a furry family member? Even if she has recently lost a much-loved pet, she may or may not want a new one.
  • Who else should be considered or consulted? Everyone who lives in the home, or spends a lot of time there, will live with the pet. Any allergies? Fears? If the recipient is a child, ultimately the parent will be responsible for pet care. So that adult should have a say in whether — and what kind of — pet is a good idea. Things to consider: type of pet, grooming and training requirements, financial responsibility, changing interests and schedules for different phases of the child’s life. Remember, there’s a good chance that this pet will still be around when the kid goes off to college.
  • Is it the right time for the recipient to acquire a new pet? Think about work/school/travel schedules and time to help the pet settle in. Also, is the living situation (renting, roommates, upcoming moves) appropriate for a pet?
  • Narrow the parameters a bit so you can plan accordingly. Is the recipient interested in a specific type of pet? What about breed type, age, coat type and energy level? What will they want to do together? Is the extra work of a kitten or puppy practical? These answers can tell you a lot about your next steps. Consider other members of the household in these terms, too.

kitten with presentsThat’s quite a list, right? Adding a pet to anyone’s family is a big commitment, so you want to be sure you’re making a good choice to give a pet.

Satisfied that your gift is the right one? You're ready for the next step.

Hatch a plan before you present your gift

Your detective work has told you to move forward. Now it’s time to make some decisions about how to present your gift.

First things first: All of those television images of the puppy in a box under the Christmas tree? Not a good idea for anyone involved. Surprising someone with a live pet at the very moment of greatest chaos is a formula for disappointment.  

Of course, you can surprise that new pet parent after you’ve done your detective homework. But you'll want to do it in a way that sets up everyone for success, preventing hurt feelings and hazards to the pet.

The most wonderful aspect of living with a pet is the relationship — the connection between pet and person, the things they like to do together, the experiences they share over the years. Any pet parent knows that the bond is very personal. Likewise, they all remember the joy of the moment they met their new best friend. That moment is what you can give to your loved one… and you’ll get to share it!

Wrap up excitement

Instead of unwrapping a box with a pet in it, your recipient will get something better: the chance to meet their perfect match when you take them to visit a local shelter or adoption event.

How you lead up to the visit is all up to you. You can make it simple, or you can really string it out! Fit your presentation to the recipient.

Dogs with presentsIf you're leaning toward a straightforward delivery, hand her an envelope with a card that holds the big news. It could say you will cover the adoption fee, or that you’ll take the recipient to choose her pet. If the recipient is a child, you and her parents should have a conversation with her first about what to expect, what you’ll look for (set the parameters before you go) and what it will be like to care for that pet.

On the other hand, you could go a more traditional route and offer gifts to open. Wrapped pet supplies are perfect for this. You might even wrap them in separate boxes, and number them  to increase the anticipation and excitement with every gift as your loved one figures it out — try bowls, a collar, pet-specific toys, a litter scoop or dog training certificate, etc. Your last present is that envelope!

If you're a gamer, spread those boxes around the house and build a scavenger hunt with clues. Remember to end with the envelope.

For more holiday fun, deck out a stuffed cat or dog with pet supplies. The stuffed cat or dog could wear the collar and leash, hold a toy and, of course, that envelope.

Once you've presented your gift, you'll get to experience the joy of watching your loved one find their new forever friend. 

It all leads up to adoption day

It’s possible that the adoption group you visit may initially have concerns about adopting a pet as a gift. However, when you are there with the gift recipient herself, you'll be able to discuss your thorough consideration before getting the pet. Once the adoption counselors see how thoughtful this decision was, they will be happy to help you find a great match.

Bottom line: You’re so thoughtful to find out what your loved one really wants as a gift. When you put that thoughtfulness into careful detective work — considering day-to-day life with that pet — it’s even better. That special gift recipient and her pet will thank you for many years to come.


kathy sutherland

Would like a dog for my. to small .mixed is find .has to get along with cats too.need by Christmas.

Audri Morrison

I am need of a yorkie puppy for a Christmas gift, but will consider other small breeds.

Jennifer Calhoun

You can give a pet to your spouse or to your child !!!

Serina Chavez

Hello I am interested in adopting a kitten, what location has kittens and how does the process go?

penny dyer

I want too adopt a shituz


You can find adoptable pets near you in multiple ways: 1) Through our Find an Adoptable Pet tool, 2) Find An Adoption Center Near you tool, 3) At one of our quarterly National Adoption Weekend Events, 4) through one of PetSmart Charities® Everyday Adoption Centers. Both search tools can be found on our National Adoption Weekend page:


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