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Creatures at Christmas

Christmas may be a warm and fuzzy, cute and cuddly time of year, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that a warm and fuzzy, cute and cuddly puppy or kitten is a good Christmas gift. Before giving someone a new animal, think it through and make sure that person is ready to care for an animal for years to come. Given the level of commitment required in looking after an animal, it’s not appropriate to give an animal as a surprise gift. After all, a puppy (or kitten or bird or fish or snake…) isn’t just for Christmas, it’s for life!

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Here are some questions to ask yourself about the recipient of your gift before giving a creature at Christmas.

1. Do they actually want an animal companion or is it just a whim?

Most animals have a life span of 8-18 years, sometimes longer depending on the breed. So, buying an animal and taking responsibility for its care and wellbeing is a substantial commitment. Make sure that the intended owner wants an animal as a companion for the 10, 15 or 20 years that animal may live. Because unlike that funky scarf that will be out of fashion in three seasons, an animal is not a piece of clothing you can just drop off at the Salvos!

2. Do they have the space and time to look after an animal properly?

Even if someone has talked for years about wanting an animal in their life, you need to consider whether they have the time and space to properly care for one. For example, your sister may love big active dogs, but if she lives in a city apartment, then she doesn’t have a home that can meet a big dog’s needs. In her case, perhaps an aquarium with fish or a cat would be better suited. In selecting an animal, also consider what breed would be best suited to the living arrangement by doing a little research. Do they have allergies? Do they have children? Do they have other animals? How much space do they have at their house? How much time do they spend at home? If they travel a lot for work, who will care for the animal when they are away? It’s also important to check whether their home is a rental or strata title and if so, are they allowed animals on the premises?

3. Can they afford the expenses associated with an animal companion?

While caring for an animal is an immensely rewarding experience, it can also be an expensive one – vet bills (including desexing, micro chipping, vaccinations, dental care, and worming as well as treatment), buying food (raw meat, vegetables, bones and supplements and fresh water) and bedding (Consider a raised bed or special animal cushions if you have them inside or a waterproof kennel with bedding if you keep them outside), obedience training (i.e. ‘puppy classes’) and pet insurance (vets can be incredibly expensive when surgery is involved), the list goes on…. Is the person you plan to give an animal to in a position to cover these costs and, perhaps, more importantly, will they want to?

4. Are they prepared for the changes to their house and lifestyle?

Animals need training. Puppies and kittens have to be taught good behaviour. Puppies will most likely pee on the floor and chew on your favourite shoes when teething, and kittens will probably scratch the furniture. A new animal owner needs to be prepared and patient – it takes time for an animal to learn how to become a member of a family. They also need to be ready to commit the time and energy necessary to training an animal and helping it adjust to life in a new home.

If after asking all these questions, you believe an animal is the gift for someone in your life, consider giving a home to an animal from one of the rescue centers. Most of these animals have vet clearance with complete micro chipping and sterilization done, and if they don’t, they are typically included in the adoption prices. New owners will also have access to education and support from the centre.

Sylvana Miller of All Creatures Healing (www.allcreatureshealing.com) is a certified Bowen therapist who has also trained in a range of other natural therapies and takes a holistic approach to animal healing. If you have any questions you would like answered in relation to natural therapies and training for your animals, email her – creatures@www.outinperth.com.

Gift Ideas for Animals

If you are an animal owner, get your animal involved in Christmas celebrations. Here are some gift ideas for the animals in your life…

  • For style: A new collar or coat
  • For taste: raw meaty bones or chicken necks for dogs and little dried fish treats for cats
  • For health: Rawhide chews – dogs love them so much, they don’t even realize they’re good for their teeth
  • For fun: A new toy. For dogs, a new ball; for cats, a new scratching post with accessory; for birds, a new bell; for fish, a new aquarium feature.
  • For the years to come: A photography session with your animal(s).

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