A Season Of Responsibility For New Pet Owners

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture
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The holidays can become stressful for many families -- the pressure to find the perfect gift, the constant demand for time from friends, relatives and co-workers, and, this year, the added weight of a slumping economy. In this time of stress, many people may look to give the gift of companionship and joy by putting a puppy or kitten under the tree.

"Before giving a furry friend as a gift, it's important to think about the recipient," said Brent Hinton, CEO of PetFirst Healthcare and formerly the Kentucky Humane Society. "Gift-givers should first determine if the owner will be a suitable caretaker, whether it's a child or an adult."

Hinton suggests answering these questions:

-- Will the owner have a safe, pet-ready household?

-- Will the owner be capable of caring for the pet for its lifetime, both in terms of time and financial commitment?

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-- Has the individual owned a pet before or has experience taking care of animals?

-- Does a certain breed better fit the recipient's lifestyle, home or family circumstances?

If the pet is for a young child, clearly the parents will need to take the lead in teaching their child how to care for it. In some cases, a teenager might not be so willing or committed due to numerous activities surrounding school, extracurricular activities or relationships.

Hinton said a responsible pet owner should also be aware of the cold weather and holiday hazards that exist for household pets.

Antifreeze ingestion is a common winter hazard because of its sweet smell and taste. Many times, antifreeze can be spilled on the driveway or the garage floor giving easy access to pets, and when ingested can cause kidney failure.

Other holiday hazards include decorations, such as ornament hooks and tinsel. Festive plants such as holly and poinsettias, as well as chocolaty treats, can also cause serious problems if ingested.

"With just a little forethought, pets can bring a lot of joy to people during this time," said Hinton.

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