It's Christmas time and the rush for gifts has started. We go around stalls, stores, and online, to look for the perfect gift to give the people we love and some of us are thinking that the perfect gift could rightly be a little furry friend. Why shouldn't we give a kitten as a gift to a person we love? Let's look at some reasons why this decision could be wrong and, in many cases, detrimental to both the animal and the person who receives it:

  1. Adopting an animal is a very important decision that should be thought out and taken with concienciousness, and especially, according to each one's possibilities and desires. Getting a Christmas-wrapped kitten could cause some problems to someone who was not expecting it at all, and perhaps not even really desiring it. An animal living with us involves responsibilities, costs and changes in life habits, it is a profound change for the whole family, so the decision should only be taken by those directly involved and not by outsiders.
  2. Giving a kitten to a child may seem like a beautiful gesture, but it conceals several problems. One of them is that the child may receive the wrong message: that the animal is comparable to an object, just like a toy found under the Christmas tree. Another problem lies in the fact that a child does not yet have the tools to deal adequately with the physical and psychological health of an animal, so parents must be aware that the care and responsibility of the animal will lie with them. Giving an animal to a child (or young boy/girl) with the aim of making him more responsible can put the child in great difficulty and the animal in serious danger. This is due to the fact that the child has not yet been provided with the right tools to understand the importance of cohabitation with another individual; it is not by letting him find the cat under the Christmas tree and telling him "now he is your responsibility" that a child will grow. Even psychologists and educators now agree that the best teaching that can be imparted to a child is through the a parent's good example. Therefore, it would be much more meaningful to make the child participate in a path of conscious choice of adoption, educating him in advance about the correct interaction with the animal and giving him the opportunity to gradually learn, through daily examples of the adults, what it means to take care of another living being and respect its needs.
  3. In the haste of wanting to find a kitten by Christmas, you risk making a poorly thought out decision and bringing home (or worse still, bringing to someone else) a cat that is not suitable for the family with all its conditions. Let us remember that we are dealing with living beings endowed with personality and thought, not with inanimate objects. Furthermore, the search for the "gift" focuses mostly on kittens, but December is usually not a month of litters and, if it were, they would still need to remain with their mother at least until the age of two months/two months and a half.
  4. Should you have a lonely and frightened kitten get in his new home when the Christmas and New Year's parties are going to take place? It would be hell for the poor kitten! The adoption process is already a very stressful experience for the animal, so if it happens in a chaotic period such as the holidays, it can really become a hellish experience for the poor animal.


So what can we do to satisfy our need to do good deeds during the Christmas period? What could be a really nice gift for everyone, humans and animals both? Here are some ideas:

  1. If we really want to welcome a feline companion in our life, we can go the local cat shelter and take all the time to choose the most suitable animal for us and our lifestyle. We could wait for the end of the holiday season to take him home, so that the cat and us may take all the time that's needed to adapt to the change, without the added stress of relatives, friends, Christmas choirs and bingo games.
  2. We could make a donation to the local cattery or associations that deal with the recovery and adoption of animals, so as to ensure an extra warm blanket and maybe a veterinary visit, a vaccine, or some good food to all guests in the shelters.
  3. We could gift ourselves or a loved one the possibility of acquiring new knowledge and training with an animal expert to learn more about the characteristics of our animals and, perhaps, to prepare in a conscious way to a good adoption. Children, especially, will be happy to learn new things in preparation to welcome a new friend at home or to improve cohabitation with family animals!
  4. We can adopt a shelter animal at a distance. Many shelters offer this opportunity and it is a great resource for the establishment which can then guarantee a better quality of life for the animal adopted at a distance.
  5. Take time to go to the local animal shelter to bring our help, there is always need!

*** I wish you all a merry Christmas, full of joy, sharing and happy thoughts for everyone, humans and animals! ***


FISAP CAB Roberta Roscini
ICAN Feline Behaviourist (Consultant)

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