TWIN FALLS — It can be a temptation when walking through the Twin Falls Animal Shelter to open all the cages, doors and gates and take them all home with you.
Another temptation with Christmas less than a month away is to give a pet as a present.
A cuddly kitten or a squirmy warm puppy can be so cute and irresistible, it’s difficult not to give in to that temptation.
“It’s a wonderful thing to adopt an animal,” said Debbie Blackwood, executive director of People for Pets, which operates the Twin Falls Animal Shelter.
But people should have a long-term plan in place when considering adopting during the holidays.
“It’s a really special thing,” Blackwood said. “It has a lot of meaning.”
Among the considerations are where a family will be for the next five years or so, she said. Ensuring the living space, especially if it’s a rental property, allows pets is vital.
Giving the pet on Christmas itself might prove problematic, Blackwood said. The presence of too many people could frighten the animal.
The discarded wrapping paper from other gifts, ribbons or food could also cause issues for the new family member, she said.
Turkey bones or fat, for instance, can be harmful to animals.
“It’s sometimes best to get the animal a tad early, before Christmas,” Blackwood suggested.
That way, the animal has time to become acclimated to the new surroundings.
Another option if the adoption is through Pets for People, is to reserve the pet a few days before the holiday, snap a photo so the recipient can still have the “gift” under the tree, then pick up the animal after Christmas, Blackwood said.
The shelter can’t, however, hold an animal for two or three weeks, she said.
Dr. Bryan Johnson of Green Acres Pet Center doesn’t believe gifting an animal for Christmas is a good idea.
“I recommend people not doing it,” Johnson said. “Especially as a surprise gift.”
Again, the need for a long-term plan regarding the pet is essential.
“A new puppy or kitten is more cost and more care than a pet of any other age,” Johnson said. “It’s the gift that keeps on taking.”
Over time, Johnson has noticed that many animals given for Christmas end up in shelters by spring.
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“It’s almost punishing a person by giving that gift,” he said.
Blackwood agreed, to some extent.
“I hate to discourage pet adoption, but it needs to be very well organized,” she said.
Training for the new pet is important, whether crate training, house training or setting boundaries.
Small dogs could have problems house training if there’s a lot of snow, Blackwood said.
Crate training a dog needs to be done properly.
“If not done correctly, it can be deleterious to the animal’s mental and emotional well being,” she said.
Having a fenced yard is ideal, Blackwood added.
A new cat should be kept in a single area when new to a home to allow them to learn where their food, water and litter box are located before moving on to the larger space.
“Some animals are exceedingly adaptable,” Blackwood said. “A lot are shy, and would be bewildered and stressed in the days after being adopted.”
Johnson acknowledged pets can sometimes be successful as holiday gifts.
“A family getting a dog for Christmas is a good success story most of the time,” he said. “Especially if the kids have been asking for a dog for a long time.”
As a gift for those who like to hunt, a reservation could be made with a good breeder, where the dog isn’t actually a Christmas gift, but will be a future addition, Johnson said.
Animals from Pets for People come already spayed or neutered and with vaccination records.
Johnson emphasized that such information is important.
“Make sure it’s fully vaccinated,” he said, regardless of where the pet comes from.
Blackwood reminded those considering a pet adoption that tiny, sleepy puppies become very active, larger dogs.
Two kittens are often better than just one because they can entertain each other. But don’t get two puppies.
“They’ll bond to each other, and not to the humans,” Blackwood said.
Whatever the individual situation, Johnson said, “It has to be the right gift for the right person.”