SOUNDOFF: Don’t give animals during the holidays

The holiday season is just around the corner. Some people may think that a puppy, kitten or any other animal would make a great gift. Here are three good reasons to wait until after the holiday season is over if you want to bring an animal into your home:

1. The noise and busy atmosphere of the holidays may frighten the puppy or kitten at a time in its life when it may be least able to deal with the stress. Baby animals go through a natural fear imprint stage, which occurs between 7 and 12 weeks of age, the time when a puppy or kitten is handed over to new owners. After the trauma of being taken away from mother and litter mates, the hectic holidays may be too much and may even have a life-long effect on the animal. During an animal's fear imprint stage, an animal can encounter something, almost anything that frightens it, and can remain fearful of these same things during its entire life.

2. When you wait before getting your animal, you may avoid the new toy syndrome: to be played with and then ignored when the excitement of being new is lost. Saving the thrill of a new animal until after the holidays means that the whole family will be involved in the responsibility a new animal brings. Remember that animals are not gifts, they are real living beings with real feelings and needs. You aren't giving a gift, you are giving a life.

3. Successful house training needs a regular schedule. Most of us cannot provide this needed routine during the hustle and bustle of the holidays. Don't forget that you'll probably have guests coming in and out and you won't want (or have time) to clean up the little messes that come with having a new animal around.

If you do want to give an animal as a gift, here are some suggestions:

1. Wrap up a photo of the new puppy or kitten. The breeder or humane society will be happy to let you take a picture and to hold onto your new animal until after the holidays. You can plan to pick up your new animal after the holidays are over. This way you will have time to purchase and set up the necessary items to make your new family member comfortable in its new home. This will also show that you are a responsible animal owner and that you don't want to subject your new animal to any unnecessary stress.

2. Make up a special puppy, kitten or animal package of items that can include dog kennel, cage, food and water dishes, leash and collar, grooming tools, dental care tools, training treats and toys.

For everyone who shares their lives with an animal, take some time to spend some quiet moments this season with those animals in your life. Too many times people get caught up in all of the activities that go on during the holiday season and tend to forget about their animals. People find themselves stressing over things that should be fun to do during the holiday season. Life is too short to stress over things that really aren't that important in the whole scheme of life. Enjoy the season for what it is and what it means to you. Share that joy with your animals by spending some quiet time with them.

Many holiday activities can be really stressful for animals, they don't understand everything that's going on. Please make sure that your animals are safe and comfortable during any holiday activities.

Please try not to indulge your dog or cat with too many bites of "people food" since this can upset their digestive system. Remember that chocolate is toxic to animals, especially to dogs.

If you are trying to think of a good gift idea for yourself, your family, or your friends, you can make a donation to any of your local animal shelters or rescue groups in your name or the name of the person you want to give the gift to. This will help these organizations as well as make both you and the recipient feel really great about doing something wonderful this holiday season.

Laurie Cecil owns Laurie's Warm Fuzzies Professional Animal Grooming on Whidbey Island.

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