Should you buy a kitten for Christmas?

If you want to get a kitten for the holiday season, make sure you're doing it right.

Cat awaits adoption at BCSPCA
A cat awaits adoption at the Vancouver BCSPCA. Photo: Jordan Yerman

If you’re thinking of sticking a kitten beneath your Christmas tree or Festivus pole this year, just paws pause. Animal adoption groups discourage the giving of kittens as holiday gifts. This doesn't mean that you can't make that kitten connection, though.

Alannah Hall, director of Vancouver Orphan Kitten Rescue (VOKRA), approaches the holiday season with tiny animals' welfare in mind. “VOKRA is not supportive of people choosing a cat from somewhere and giving it as a gift," says Hall, "There’s a special art to matching cats and people."

Indeed, VOKRA exists to assist cats who have been abandoned.

IOU 1 Cat

Hall has an alternative, though: "If someone wants to give a gift certificate for a cat, they would still fill out all the adoption applications and go through our normal approval process, but the adoption fee would be already paid.”

Let the excitement of the holiday season die down, and if you’re still craving feline companionship, you can make a proper decision after meeting a few potential feline flatmates.

After all, it is a long-term decision. A well-cared-for cat can live beyond twenty years: the kitten you got for your eight-year-old will still be around when she finishes grad school.

Patience pays off, says Hall: “I have had the pleasure of working with one couple where the lady went through the adoption process, chose her cat and then I was able to present her with a beautiful card from her fiance saying that the cat had been paid for as a gift.  We really want to make sure that people are matched with the perfect kitty!”

However, stray cats will rarely live beyond a few years: it's hard out there on the streets.

The BCSPCA also urges you not to put an animal (cat, dog, or other) beneath the tree. Remember how animal shelters were swamped with unwanted dogs after the remake of "101 Dalmatians"?

If you go to the BCSPCA cat adoption room in East Van, you'll hear some sad stories about cats who were abandoned in empty houses when their families moved away; or baskets of kittens left out in public.

A gift animal can easily be neglected amidst all the excitement of the holidays. Animals - especially puppies and kittens - need special care and attention when moved to a new environment and, unfortunately and unintentionally, during the holiday season pets can be quickly forgotten among the new toys and games.

Bringing a pet into your home means a major lifestyle change for human and animal alike; especially if you’ve never cared for a pet before. Today’s Christmas-morning kittens can become tomorrow’s street cats.

So check yourself, and take your time in bringing a pet into your life. Unless you want that kitten your kid unwraps on Christmas Morning to end up like this:

It's a hard-knocks life for us...

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