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Have you thought about adopting a new pet for Christmas?

Far from dismissing the idea, animal welfare groups now support the practice of gifting a pet for Christmas – so long as it’s done the right way.

Here’s what you need to know if you’re to gift a pet a new home, plus seven tips for success.

A changing message

Opinions about pet ownership are constantly changing.

The old dog dominance theory – that says pet dogs have a pack mentality and owners should be the alpha dog – has long been debunked. Letting animals sleep on the bed is no longer taboo.

Shelters have learned that drastically reducing adoption fees does not increase the likelihood of pet re-surrender, or the level of people’s attachment to their new pet.

Now, just as shelters used to block black cat adoptions around Halloween for fear of dumping afterwards (or worse), shelters that once warned against adopting pets at Christmas are now embracing the idea.

Some shelters are even advocating this time of year can actually be a good thing for both the animal and the new family, as everyone is home to help the new pet settle in.

A Christmas gift

RSPCA is one organisation that has changed its message regarding pet adoptions at Christmas. Chief executive Liz Walker says a pet at Christmas, or a voucher for pet adoption at a shelter, can be a good idea – so long as it is not a surprise present.

An annual ‘cat-astrophe’

Although the number of cats entering RSPCA shelters spikes annually between November and January, this is because of kitten season.

This is the time of the year when non-desexed female cats give birth to coincide with increased warmth and availability of food. This phenomenon is replicated across the country, placing huge pressure on staff and resources at shelters due to the flood in kittens.

To help stop the enormous number of unwanted cats and dogs entering Australian shelters, it is really important to desex your animal (especially cats before kitten season).

Seven tips for getting a new pet

Pet ownership is a wonderfully rewarding experience, with many studies showing pet owners have improved physical and mental health and are more social. 

So if you are considering adopting a pet this Christmas, here are some tips to consider:

  • Positive training techniques are more effective and humane than punishment techniques. Reward animals for doing the right thing with treats rather than punishing them for doing the wrong thing.
  • If adopting a pet for a child, remember the parent is ultimately responsible for the pet (so be prepared to take care of the animal!).
  • Christmas decorations and ornaments such as tinsel and Christmas tree hangings make wonderful objects to get stuck in the stomach after swallowing, so keep them out of reach of pets to avoid unnecessary and expensive surgery.
  • Dogs can get very sick with pancreatitis after consuming a fatty meal, so no feeding leftover Christmas ham or sausages.
  • Dogs and chocolate don’t mix, so keep boxes of chocolates securely in a cupboard.
  • You must be ready to commit both the time and money required for the lifespan of an animal, which could be up to 20 years.
  • Consider adopting an older cat (eight years and over) or a middle-aged dog (five to eight years of age). Research consistently shows that animals in these age groups are the hardest group to re-home and hence spend the longest time in the shelter.

So if you’re ready to make the commitment, go on, visit your local shelter and make this Christmas one to remember for you or the owner of the newly adopted pet.

The Conversation. Read the original article.

The Conversation