A cat for Christmas?
Why not give someone a cat for Christmas? For many people Christmas is a lonely time of the year, and (as if you have not heard), cats make excellent companions. For a child, there is nothing like caring for a pet to give a sense of self-worth and to teach responsibility. And sadly enough at this time of the year, animal shelters are teeming with cats of all ages and breeds which desperately need a good home.
Animal protection societies have found that many cats adopted as a present at Christmas have found a loving and stable home for the rest of their lives. But for a Christmas adoption to be a success, you need to think way, way beyond the celebrations at the end of the current year.
You have probably heard the message that 'A dog is for life, not just for Christmas' - well this is even more true for cats. Just remember that the fluffy kitten you are buying as a companion for your toddler will be an adult cat when the toddler enters first grade, will be a mature cat when the child starts secondary school, and may still be around to beg for scraps at the young adult’s wedding reception. So you are not just giving a Christmas present, you are also giving a commitment which will last for much of the recipient's life. Best make sure they can manage this. You are giving a live, intelligent being with feelings - not a fluffy toy that you can chuck in the bin when it gets inconvenient.
This message is particularly relevant at Xmas time because many people think that a cat would be a great Xmas present for their child. And with the right amount of forward planning it may well be. But you may want to do some homework first.
There are two things which are important to plan for:
- As soon as the new cat is brought home
- The long term
For a start, don't make an impulse buy at a pet shop. Take time to meet your family's new pet, and pick a cat with a disposition that suits you or the person you are planning the gift for. A kitten may make a lively pet for a child, but a grandparent might appreciate a snuggly and sedentary fellow senior. Take the time to read the many articles on cat care on this and other websites. The usual chaos surrounding Christmas is not the ideal time to learn how to look after a creature of another species with its own interests and needs.
Try to look at things from the cat's point of view. For anyone, cat, human or any other animal, being brought to a new home is very stressful. This may be particularly so for a rescue cat still homesick for the house and family she once knew. So introducing a new cat would work best if you are planning on a quiet Xmas just with immediate family. During the holidays everyone will be relaxed and have more time on their hands, so they can give more time to a new arrival. Indeed, the cat may even serve as a distraction from family tensions which can brew up on such occasions.
However, if you are planning on a big family gathering, or Christmas parties, remember that lots of people and extra noise will create additional stress for the cat. This can lead not only to immediate problems but later behaviour issues. So if you like a rambunctious Christmas, it would be better to wait till the dust has settled before you bring the cat in. If it is your first cat read articles in the 'get a cat' section on this website, in particular Bringing your cat home - the first few days.
Now for the long term. (Think 20+ years here …)
Here's a question many people do not think about - how much will that little bundle of fur cost once it's a part of the family? This may seem unimportant, because how much can it cost to feed a small cat? Read on. The Times newspaper in the UK recently produced a cost estimate for the lifespan of a cat:
|CAT: costs over a life of 14 years||
Daily 60g tin of cat food £3,066
|Total: £9,459 over a lifetime|
|Source: The Times|
And this is a very modest estimation, since costs will only go up and many cats live longer than 14 years..
Once reality takes over from the Christmas rush, far too many people find out too late that they simply cannot afford to keep a cat. In his recent article ‘Recession’s silent victims’ writer Alex Ward points out that in Britain the number of pets being abandoned has risen by 65% since 2007.
According to the RSPCA, a shocking 40,595 pets were abandoned in England in 2011 alone (ref. 1). The reports from France are even more alarming. According to the animal welfare group '30 millions d'amis', 60,000 pets are abandoned in France every year during the summer holidays. Going by the statistics from the Paris based Animal Protection Society, the true figure may well be approaching 100,000 abandoned pets (ref. 2). The UK or France are by no means exceptional and in most countries the problem is on a similar scale.
A lot of this could be avoided if people made an educated decision before adopting a pet. The greatest danger for a pet is holiday time. Not only are pets more likely to be acquired without the purchasers thinking through the consequences, but some people have no idea what to do with the pet if they are leaving home for the holidays. With all the other expenses at this time catteries are a substantial additional cost, and neighbours and friends often can't or won't be willing cat-sitters.
Most people who share their lives with a cat will tell you that the decision to get a cat is one they would make again in an instant. But it's not fair to either the cat or to the human to give or get a pet without thinking things all the way through. There are a lot of questions to consider - best to have the answers covered before deciding to bring that cat home for Xmas.
- Alex Ward. 'Recession's silent victims': More than 100 pets are being abandoned every day in Britain as families can no longer afford to feed them. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2226089/RSPCA-Over-100-pets-abandoned-day-Britain-families-longer-afford-feed-them.html
- Caroline Clarkson. Pets abandoned in their thousands: the dark side of summer in France. http://carolineclarkson.blogs.france24.com/article/2012/08/10/pets-abandoned-their-thousands-dark-side-summer-france-0