Parents’ Guide To Buying A New Pet For Christmas

We are all warned that buying a child a new pet for Christmas isn’t a good idea, but it can be done successfully if you do it right.  My son was given a hamster for Christmas one year, and he became a very responsible pet owner.  He learned a lot about caring for an animal, and I don’t regret this period of his growing up at all.  If you are thinking of buying a new pet for Christmas, this parent’s guide will help you get your child’s relationship with their new friend off on the right foot.

Is Your Child Ready For a Pet?

As a parent, you will know if your child is ready for the responsibility of taking care of an animal.  If there is already a pet in the home, they may already be involved in regular pet care in some way.  If this is going to be their first pet, think about if they are able to commit to things long term and if they are good with routine.  Also think about whether you are willing to support them to become a responsible pet owner as you are likely to be in this together, especially during the early days.


Don’t Wrap a Pet!

Nobody would wrap an actual pet for Christmas would they, but that’s not what I’m getting at.  Presenting a child with a pet on Christmas day, along with all the other presents, isn’t a great message to send to a child about responsible pet care.  If you are going to be giving a pet for Christmas, you might have to forgo the element of surprise and involve them in the process of welcoming a new pet into the home either before or after the big day.

Which Pet to Choose For a Child?

I’m sure your child will have some thoughts about the kind of pet they want, so you might need to manage their expectations and talk about whether they could care for some pets better than others.

When choosing a pet for a child, there are several things you need to think about and discussing these with your child is going to help them think about taking on their new responsibility.


Space for a Pet

Ask them to think about the space you have available in the home and where the pet will live.  Dogs need a lot of space, both inside and out, and are not suitable for every home.  If you are short on space, a smaller pet like a hamster or gerbil might be more appropriate.

How Much Are You at Home?

This is one of the most usual conversations to have with a child about taking care of a pet.  If the house is empty all day or you travel regularly this is going to be a factor in which pet you can choose.  Who will look after the pet while you are away?  Will you have to pay someone to take care of your pet either during the day or when you are on holiday.  If you are going to rely on friends and family to help you, what kind of pet are they prepared to look after during these periods.

The Cost of Having a Pet

A child may not realise that pets not only cost money to buy, but they cost money to look after properly.  Part of being a responsible pet owner is making sure you have the budget to take care of the pet properly.  When you are talking about which pet to get, talk openly about the money that is involved in their care.  There maybe vets bills to consider, regular pet treatment products to buy, nutritious pet food and other pet maintenance costs.  Things can soon mount up.


It’s a sad thing to think about, but how long the pet is going to live is another factor to consider when it comes to which pet to choose.  This will have a bearing on the cost involved in their care and whether you can manage the commitment or not.  Dogs and cats have relatively long lifespans, and may still need a home even when your children have upped and left for university.  Some animals only live for a few years, which can make giving them to a child more appealing.

Get Children Involved in Buying The Pet

If you are going to get your child a pet for Christmas, it’s important to get them involved in the whole process, to build a sense of responsibility.  Start with books about caring for your animal, either from the library or a bookshop. This will help them to understand the commitment they are going to be making.

Get them to make a list of things that their new pet will need, and how much it will cost.  If they are going to be given money as a gift for Christmas think about whether they should contribute towards buying some of the items the pet will need.  You might also want to agree that they buy some things out of their pocket money regularly to help care for their new pet.


A child should also be apart of choosing their own pet, where possible, as this will help them start their attachment with them from the beginning.  Once they have bought their pet home, the child may need some support with caring for them.  As a parent, it’s worth accepting this is going to be a reality, and being honest about the time you want to commit to this when choosing an animal.  Support them with feeding, any cleaning required and if the pet requires exercise, handling or stimulation for as long as they need it.

Children get a lot out of taking care of a pet.  If they have the right pet for their circumstances and are supported well, it can be a very rewarding, educational and developmental experience for them.  Are you thinking of getting your child a pet this year?

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Zena Goldman is a UK based travel, family & lifestyle blogger who left her 9-5 job behind in the not-for-profit sector to follow her creative dreams and enjoy a more flexible family life. She began writing Zena’s Suitcase in 2011 and shares the holidays and adventures she goes on with (and without) her 2 young daughters. She wishes her son would join them more often but he’s carving out his own dreams now and enjoying university life.

Since beginning Zena’s Suitcase she has worked with a number of brands and also has a regular monthly feature in the ASDA Good Living Magazine feature, ‘Ask The Expert’ where she shares helpful parenting tips. In 2018 she was also a finalist in the prestigious BIBs Awards for Social Media.

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  1. Margaret Gallagher
    December 18, 2016 / 4:01 pm

    So important to consider all this -sadly people dont

  2. December 18, 2016 / 9:28 pm

    I love the “don’t wrap a pet” bit! I am guessing that there are some people who do though. A pet should be thought about, wanted by all and thoroughly planned for. I would love a pet but I don’t feel that we could give one the time it deserves, so we are not getting one.
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  3. December 19, 2016 / 6:37 am

    Such a great post to get out Zena. Pets need lots of love and attention. Also lots of looking after. We have had Mollie our dog about a year and half now and out days out have now stopped because it is not fair on leaving her a long time x
    clairejustine recently posted…Christmas Creative Mondays…My Profile

  4. December 19, 2016 / 7:06 am

    We always had loads of pets growing up, but now, as parents, we’ve only got two cats. We’d never dream of bringing a new pet into the home during the busy festive season.
    Elizabeth recently posted…Chewy Trail Mix Oatmeal CookiesMy Profile

  5. caroline tokes
    December 20, 2016 / 8:01 am

    I think its ok getting a child a pet for christmas as long as the parents realise they may have to look after it. I had loads of pets when i was younger but always looked after them myself

  6. Susie Wilkinson
    December 20, 2016 / 12:49 pm

    It’s never a good idea bringing a new pet into the home at Christmas, it’s such a hectic time and they’re much better being brought into a calm environment some time before or after……unless, of course, you’re me and get given a dog at Christmas because his previous owners can’t look after him anymore……..that was one crazy Christmas a few years ago!

  7. shannon fowler
    December 22, 2016 / 1:31 am

    my parents got us parakeets for christmas one year. Our family is small so there wasn’t much travel around that time, so it wasn’t an issue with things being hectic. I think its ok if things are thought out and not something done on a whim.

  8. Richard Eldred Hawes
    December 22, 2016 / 9:46 pm

    Always a difficult decision, but a pet which the children want is an excellent learning experience

  9. William Gould
    December 24, 2016 / 8:35 am

    Yes there’s a lot to consider. Cats are a lot less bother than dogs and can look after themselves with access to food and a litter tray, but you can’t take a cat out for a long walk in the woods, can you?
    Our friends have recently got a dog, and luckily have great neighbours that they can leave it with if they do have to go out for the day.

  10. January 1, 2017 / 10:10 am

    Buying a new pet is a great responsibility and he will be a member of your family for his lifetime.
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  11. craig
    January 21, 2017 / 10:14 am

    You mention some great points, we are currently falling in the “is your kids ready for a pet”, our daughter is nearly 3 and she really (really really) wants a cat but we are wondering if she is too young, I know generally speaking cats are more independent than most other pets but still not sure. Then it’s the question mark of getting a kitten vs an older cat (rescue), Thanks for the write up, useful read.

  12. Kimberly McGowan
    October 30, 2018 / 9:36 pm

    When I was a kid, we used to have a big yard full of dogs. However, my family lives in a flat today, so a big shepherd dog was out of the question, although those breeds are the closest to my heart. We settled for a nice, little toy poodle that me and my kids adore. It loves living in a flat and it doesn’t leave mess behind. We wouldn’t change her for 10 shepherds today.

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