Pets should never be given as SURPRISE gifts

I agree with the thoughts of a person posting on the website in which they apply a lot of good sense on the topic of giving a pet as a surprise present and videoing the giving of the gift. They are strongly against it as am I. But people don’t like to be criticised for what is undeniably a kind-hearted gesture. The problem is that it’s a gesture which misses the bigger picture.

A surprise gift of a pet is a kind act by the gifting person but not necessarily kind for the companion animal.

A surprise gift of a pet is a kind act by the gifting person but not necessarily kind for the companion animal
A surprise gift of a pet is a kind act by the gifting person but not necessarily kind for the companion animal. Image: MikeB
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles:- Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

Joy and excitement

People think it’s too negative to criticise the idea of gifting a kitten. It can be a beautiful thing. And it makes a great video. The intentions are always genuinely good. Parents want to please their child, make her happy. In that moment when the kitten is handed over, that is a lot of joy and excitement.

Long-term issues

What we don’t see is what happens afterwards because the kitten will live for up to 20 years. The crunch question is whether the child who becomes a teenager and an independent adult will continue to be a caregiver of the kitten who becomes a cat.

Adopting a kitten is a life changing commitment. I don’t think people think about it like that but it’s as life changing as any other major event.

Critical PETA

As you might expect, PETA is critical of the culture of giving animals as gifts but their article is worth reading. It isn’t just about the long-term question mark as to whether the relationship between the receiver of the gift and the pet will be a strong bond for the life of the animal.


It’s about giving an animal as a pet during Christmas when there’s more noise in the home and dangers on the floor and probably strangers in the house. Not a good moment to introduce a vulnerable animal into the household. The opposite to best practise.


There is also the philosophical concept of giving a sentient being as a gift. It puts the sentient being in the category of an inanimate object. This is not a good mentality to have in terms of excellent cat caregiving.

Surrendered to shelters

It’s a fact that many gifted pets at holiday time such as Christmas end up in shelters. For example, PETA mention a shelter in Fargo, North Dakota, which reported that more than 700 animals were turned over after the holiday season.

And another “adoption group” in a small town, Edinburg, Texas, “gets more than 400 animals”. It says that the surrenders normally start with a phone call from somebody explaining that they got the animal for Christmas and that they can’t care for it.

Some shelters have a policy of not allowing adoptions between December 20 and January 1 or providing advice to people to scotch the idea of adopting just before Christmas. PETA tells me that many of the large animal shelters in Germany have banned adoptions between December 15 and January because they believe that it’s the wrong time adopt.


I’ve mentioned the word “surprise” in the title to the article. This points to a more successful scenario in which the person receiving the gift is involved in the adoption process. It doesn’t become a surprise gift anymore and therefore you lose some of the excitement but it’s much safer.

PETA recommend that the entire family goes down to the shelter to make the decision to adopt as a group. The recipient can choose the animal that best suits their lifestyle and they can receive the animal after the holiday season into a quieter home.

Gift voucher

If parents want to gift a pet to their child, they could give a gift certificate/voucher from a shelter which covers the cost of adoption and which allows the recipient to choose their companion animal in their own time to ensure an excellent bond going forward.

Criticising a kind act

To return to the user I mentioned in the opening paragraph. They were quite brave to criticise the idea of gifting pets because people who criticise a kind act such as I have in this article tend to get negative comments which is sad. It indicates a culture which is not really attuned to animal welfare. It is a kind act vis-a-vis the recipient of the gift but not guaranteed to be kind to the animal.

Glamorized in videos

They write, “In short, I not only wholeheartedly oppose the idea of gifting animals where the new owner was not involved in the selection process, I also oppose glamorizing the videos of it, posting videos of it…”


A surprise giveaway pet is too much of a risk because you just don’t know how is going to work out. You can’t take that risk with a sentient being. You can’t just throw away a gift you don’t like when the gift is an animal and you can’t recycle an animal gift like you can with a bottle of wine or something.

There needs to be a bond between the cat caregiver and the cat at the beginning lasting the lifetime of the companion animal which engenders genuine commitment.

This might happen when the animal is a gift at Christmas. I’m not saying that it won’t always work out but it’s a risk and I don’t think you should take this sort of risk with animals.

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