by Nomi Berger
With the approach of the holidays, everyone’s thoughts turn naturally to the happy chore of gift giving to those nearest and dearest to them. While some people opt for the tried and true, hoping another gift certificate isn’t too impersonal or another sweater or tie, scarf, box of chocolates or bottle of perfume isn’t too predictable, they’re much safer choices than those being considered by others: a kitten!
The gift of a kitten is not the same as the gift of a small, stuffed plushy toy. More often than not, wrapping a red and green ribbon with a matching bow around the neck of a living, breathing animal signals only one thing: trouble. Animals are not toys and should never be anyone’s holiday surprise. Unlike other holiday purchases, there are no refunds or exchanges on kittens, only serious, possibly dire consequences. Although the idea of a kitten as a present may seem thoughtful, it is, in reality, thoughtless.
Why? Because the gift of a kitten means someone else must accept responsibility for that kitten. (Grandparents, parents and “empty nesters” come quickly to mind). Because the gift of a kitten means a potential commitment of 10 to 15 years or more on the part of these recipients. What you consider an act of generosity may, unfortunately, be seen instead as an imposition. If they want a kitten, it’s up to them to make that choice.
The same holds true when considering a kitten for your own family. And it must be a carefully considered choice. An informed decision made by everyone involved. Does anyone suffer from allergies, particularly to cats? Does everyone even want a kitten? Does everyone understand what it means to share in the many responsibilities of raising a kitten? Because adding a kitten to your family not only involves time and money, it means providing that same innocent kitten with a loving and stable home – forever.
Children should never be presented with a kitten at any time of the year. Typically, they will be charmed by this small, furry plaything that leaps and jumps, purrs, meows and nips, runs here, there and everywhere, and gets into all manner of appealing and amusing kitten mischief. Until the novelty wears off and reality sets in. The reality of actually caring for their cute little bundle of undirected energy. Kittens are not so cute when they have to be patiently taught proper kitten manners – not to bite fingers, pull hair or scratch skin, not to scratch furniture and not to jump up on counters.
Kittens must be trained how to properly and politely use a litter box, respond to their name when called, and eat and drink out of their designated bowls. Kittens must be kept creatively occupied to both burn off their exuberant energy and strengthen the bond between them and their family. Kittens must be provided with the means to keep themselves constructively occupied when left on their own – from cat trees and cat towers to cat tunnels and puzzle toys.
Long before that kitten matures into a cat, you, as the well-intentioned gift giver, will, in all likelihood, be that same kitten’s full-time caregiver. And, unfortunately, some of you won’t be prepared for this eventuality. If the result isn’t a poorly trained, ill-mannered and destructive pet, the alternative is even worse. Another well-intentioned but misguided “gift” either dropped off at a pound or surrendered to a shelter, potentially to be euthanized.
In lieu of a kitten, consider a holiday “gift” that keeps on giving in the most paws-itive sense of the word by supporting an animal organization like ours! Make a one-time tax-deductible donation to us in the name of your grandparents, parents or “empty nesters.” Make a monthly donation to us in your name and/or the names of your children.
In short, to ensure that your own holidays are both happy and harmonious, ensure that your gift list never includes pets.