So you’re considering getting a new pet for the holidays? There is nothing sweeter than adding four paws and snuggly fluff to the warm and fuzzy feeling of the season, but before you take the plunge, make sure you and your family are ready to take on this rewarding responsibility. We’ve gathered a comprehensive summary to help you prepare, from choosing your perfect match to immediate training tips.

ARE YOU REALLY READY FOR THIS?

Pets bring families comfort and joy – not just for the holidays, but all year-round. Let’s face it, though: owning a pet is a big responsibility, and it requires every family member’s hand in the huddle. Before you dazzle everyone with a new pet for the holidays, you may want to ask yourself some key questions to determine your family’s level of commitment.  

Next, you’ll want to determine which type of pet is best for your family’s lifestyle. How much space do you have? How much daily free time do you have to care for a pet? What will be the impact on the kids? (See also these five great benefits of dogs and children growing up together and the healing power of cats and kids.) 

Whether a precious pup or curious cat is your choice, there are plenty of breeds that make great fits for families, as well as rescue pets waiting for homes like yours.

PLANNING THE RED-RIBBONED REVEAL

If you’d like to surprise the kids with a pet for the holidays, consider wrapping that big red bow around a plush dog or cat and placing it under the tree—instead of the real, live thing. Picking out a new pet should be a fun activity for the whole family, and this gives everyone a chance to have a say in which pet you bring home.

After the wrappings have littered the living room floor and you’re gathered around the fireplace, consider pulling up Petfinder.com, a database of shelter pets looking for homes—or research a reputable breeder. The kids will love scrolling through the photos and learning fun facts about the animals available for adoption. Plan a date to meet a few of the favorites and decide on the family’s perfect match.

IS YOUR HOUSEHOLD FURBALL-FRIENDLY?

The first few days in your home are special and critical for a new pet. Your pup will be confused about where he is and what to expect from you. Your kitty will be sensitive to her new surroundings and may hide under a bed for days or weeks. Getting your household pet-ready before welcoming the new one home may mitigate some of these challenges.

DOG

  • Create a schedule and division of duties for your family members. Who will feed the dog and when? Take him for walks? Play an evening game of fetch or tug-of-war?
  • Develop a vocabulary list of commands for your dog that everyone will use consistently
  • Purchase supplies: food/water bowls, toys, bedding, collar, leash, crate, etc.
  • Remove or secure household hazards and chewing temptations, such as electrical cords and your favorite pair of slippers
  • Place a bed or crate in a room where the pup can go for some peace and quiet

CAT

  • Place a litter box in the corner of a room to give Kitty privacy
  • Clear off a shelf so that your cat has a perch on which to survey her new territory
  • Provide her a safe haven with either a covered cat bed or large cardboard box
  • Store away breakable knick-knacks until your new cat is settled into your home
  • Station scratching posts around the house

THE HOMECOMING

Bringing your new pet home will be magical for everyone, and you’ll probably want to burst with holiday cheer. But this is where the real adventure begins: training your new pet to become a civilized member of the household. We’re here to help with these training tips throughout the New Year and beyond.

DOG

CAT

Your new addition is sure to make the holidays the most wonderful time of the year! Bookmark these tips for easy reference as you transition into life with your newest family member, and congrats on welcoming a furry friend to your home!