While little kids dream of finding that cute puppy or kitten nosing out of a big red box under their Christmas tree, the practicalities of pet care make that a challenging dream to fulfill. A pet is a multi-year time and money commitment and some families cannot own cats or dogs for allergy, time, space, or other reasons. For parents who want to thrill their kids with the love of a pet without the messy follow through, here are some alternate suggestions for pet substitutes that don’t require quite as much attention and space, and are much less messy and labor-intensive.
The Christmas Dog With an Off Switch: Robot Puppy
Tekno the Robotic Puppy is a puppy substitute minus the accidents on the carpet and the dog hair. He can be trained to follow simple commands and provides a taste of the responsibility needed in dog ownership. Suggested for children ages 3-8, he follows the normal schedule of an 8-week-old puppy from playtime to naptime. Unlike a real dog, he comes with an on-off switch. And unlike stuffed dogs, he is hair-free, perfect for kids with asthma and allergies who need to avoid dust.
Christmas Plush and Book Set: Easy Care Pet Alternative
For those families that can tolerate a little fur, there are many wonderful book and stuffed animal gift sets out there. Pick your own dog or cat-themed book and a matching stuffed animal for some reading and cuddling time. Pair a James Herriot book or Lassie Come Home with a stuffed collie pup or kitten. For more exotic animal lovers, a perennial favorite is Elizabeth Kimmel’s My Penguin Osbert, a cautionary tale about the boy who gets the pet of his dreams for Christmas and finds out it’s not quite what he wanted. Another Christmas family favorite for the little boy or girl who dreams of a pet rabbit for a gift is Nutbrown Hare from Sam McBratney’s Guess How Much I Love You.
Save Pets with a Humane Society Donation
If you love cats and dogs, but just can’t have an animal in the house, a donation to your local humane society or anti-cruelty organization is always welcome. There are many small non-profit cat and dog shelters that need help from animal lovers. For a more tangible gift, find out what the pet shelter needs, be it a few bags of cat or dog food, a stack of towels for bedding, or even simple office supplies, and commit to deliver it to the shelter with the kids. The kids can visit and play with the animals as you drop off the donation, and kids, pets, and shelter organizers will all be happy.
Exotic Pets for Christmas: Zoo Adoption
For kids who dream not of a puppy or kitten, but a lion, giraffe or penguin under the tree, most zoos offer an animal adoption program. Pick your child’s favorite exotic animal and “adopt” it for a year. The family can visit your new pet at the zoo. Often, the adoption papers come with a stuffed plush that the child can keep as their own personal pet at home. The National Zoo in Washington, D.C. offers giant pandas for adoption, among other exotic species.
A Global Gift for Animal Lovers: Heifer International
Heifer International helps families in emergent countries around the world with animal gifts that allow them to become self sufficient. You can choose from many different types of livestock, from a heifer to a sheep to a flock of geese or ducks, and even adorable rabbits and guinea pigs. Heifer’s goals are community involvement and sustainable development. Professional veterinarians ensure proper and humane animal care. Heifer International also offers specialty gifts, such as a flock of honeybees, a knitter’s basket of fiber producing animals, or a cheese gift of milk producing animals.
Avoiding a pet under the Christmas tree is a responsible choice. The pet lover in your life should enjoy one of these holiday pet-gift alternatives.