Can it EVER be right to give an animal as a gift at Christmas?

Christmas is upon us once again, and it’s always a time for reflection. As we start putting the decs up here at GPM HQ, we’re also taking a moment to look back at our last Christmas Issue – 71. This time last year, in Thoughts Before Vegtime, Sue Tate from Cavy Corner shared her reflections on a topic that resurfaces every year. This year, however, it seems even more pertinent, given the increasing number of surrenders to our guinea pig rescues and the challenges posed by our current cost of living crisis.

From Issue 71, December 2022, join us as we revisit Sue’s thoughts on this matter. Take it away, Sue…

Do you write Christmas letters to your family? Even though it was well over 50 years ago, I recall earnestly writing my letter to Father Christmas, usually with a guinea pig on my lap. I would throw the handwritten note into the flames of the real coal fire burning in the hearth and watch my letter disappear in a puff of smoke up the chimney.

The anticipation, excitement, hopes, and dreams accompanying the annual ritual lasted far longer. I remember very few of the gifts I received—just the special ones with a deep emotional connection. However, I vividly remember making paper chain decorations with my brother, helping Mum bake, and going to the greengrocer every Christmas Eve to pick out a special carrot for each of my guinea pigs and rabbits to have on Christmas morning.

I don’t recall ever asking for a pet for Christmas (though I was given my first rabbit from a family friend on a birthday as a young child!). That was probably because I grew up with a houseful of beloved pets in a family where my love of animals was already shared, encouraged, and indulged.

Can it EVER be right to give an animal as a gift? My reply will probably surprise you – sometimes. Life is not one size fits all. Last year (2021) we did all the usual checks and held a Guinea Care Course for a family who explained Christmas is a quiet family time for them. Everyone is at home. They wanted the new arrivals on Christmas Eve as they were to be the only family present. The considerable outlay for a generously sized cage, bedding, equipment, and adoption fee used up the Christmas present budget, but it was what the whole family, parents, and two teens had agreed they all most wanted for Christmas. When I met them early in November, it felt right. It was planned and prepared for, not a whim or spur-of-the-moment decision.

Unlike the Cavy Corner Helpline call on Boxing Day last year (2021). From the mother of a four-year-old whose Auntie had ‘surprised’ him with two purchased guinea pigs in a totally unsuitable cage on Christmas Morning. The four-year-old was not at all pleased, never having shown any interest in animals (probably hoping for Lego), but he wasn’t as unimpressed as his poor parents, who had no desire for pets either. They were here in the rescue with us within 24 hours of being given as a gift.

Two Rescued Christmas Babies

Like most rescues, any new enquiries Cavy Corner received in December would be vetted as usual. If serious and able to offer a suitable home, talked through the adoption process but offered appointments in the New Year.

When explaining to parents of young children who have requested guineas for Christmas why it is not advisable, I usually suggest that a pre-Christmas talk takes place, explaining why that won’t happen (to avoid disappointment on the day). Maybe a book on guinea pig care and a toy guinea could be wrapped up and given along with the promise of further investigation into possible pet ownership. If the child is really committed to having guinea pigs, they will still be in a month or two.

This Christmas, with concerns over soaring energy bills and the increasing cost of living, might be a worrying time for some. I hope that people can use it as an opportunity to cut out unnecessary spending.

IF giving a gift, make it something the person can use, enjoy, or really wants. No one who loves you would want you to feel under pressure to spend money you couldn’t afford. Even if you can afford to splash the cash, what about giving heartfelt gifts that really help? For example, a GPM subscription will give the lucky recipient pleasure, advice, and information for a whole year, assuming they love guineas as much as you, of course! Or a sponsorship of a rescue or endangered animal.

I was delighted to receive a sponsorship of a lovely donkey in a sanctuary last year. And everyone loves homemade sweets, cookies, or cake. So, make it about the memories. If you are alone with your guinea pigs this Christmas, reach out to a lonely neighbour, or invite someone over. Even better, volunteer somewhere. 

On the subject of presents, we would like to thank those of you who have so kindly supported Cavy Corner by sending a donation or gift to the rescued guineas in our care. Your thoughtfulness is incredible and is much appreciated. 

Sue Tate & The Volunteers at Cavy Corner

1 thought on “Can it EVER be right to give an animal as a gift at Christmas?

  1. Agreed! It isn’t a one-size-fits-all idea. In general, animals as presents for young children and unpaired parents are never a good idea. If someone is prepared and educated to take care of the animal, then I think it would be okay!

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