The Perfect Pet Present

A commitment not just for Christmas

It's Christmas time, and once again the leading pet charities are appealing for a responsible approach to pet ownership.

Sadly, in Britain we talk of dogs and cats with a sentimentality that is not always matched by the sympathy with which we treat them. This can be particularly true at Christmas.

We often hear the mantra, 'A pet is for life, not just for Christmas'. Yet some people still think a new puppy or kitten is the perfect treat for a Christmas morning. And just like some toys, these 'presents' can be quickly neglected and, even more tragically, discarded.

In fact, last year the number of abandoned pets dealt with by the RSPCA alone was well over 2,200 – a 23 per cent increase on the year before.

Owning a pet comes with a lot of commitment. They chew, need lots of attention, give you sleepless nights, and make puddles (or worse) on the carpet. They can take a long time to train, so a good supply of patience is vital.

Companionship

Once they settle in, a cat or dog can be a companion that gives years of pleasure – a Christmas gift that truly lasts. If you have a dog, you are exercising yourself as well as your pet when you take them for a walk. And you'll find that there is quite a social circle of other dog owners out on their walks.

So if you are giving a pet for Christmas – especially to a youngster – you really do need to think about the long term welfare of the new member of your family.

Care for your new kitten or puppy

Just like us, pets are subject to falling ill or having accidents. And their ailments are remarkably similar to those suffered by humans.

According to Karen Jakes of AA Pet Insurance: "The most frequent claim is for lameness, followed by removal of tumours/cysts for dogs. For cats, hyperthyroidism is the most common serious complaint but other frequent claims are for road accidents, tumours and urinary infections.

"It's also worth noting that over the Christmas period vets find themselves dealing with chocolate poisoning – for dogs and cats eating chocolate can result in severe illness and can be fatal.* Dogs can have a sweet tooth, so owners need to stick to chocolate drops specially formulated for them. And keep the chocolate box out of paws' reach."

Treatment for some pet problems can be quite expensive. For instance, a vet's bill to sort out a dog injured by a car could cost up to £4,200, while a cat suffering with renal disease could cost over £1,500. "That can be quite a shock, especially at a time when the average family is finding it more difficult than ever to make ends meet."

So whether you're welcoming a new pet this Christmas, or have a cat or dog that has enjoyed several Christmases with you, perhaps the best present for them is an insurance policy. "It might be a genuine life-saver one day," Karen adds. "What's more, your pet will still be covered, even if they do manage to swallow the policy document."

Another Christmas gift could be a microchip. These are becoming increasingly widespread, and are being credited with more and more lost pets being reunited with their owners. You can talk to your vet about having a microchip put in – it is a very simple and straightforward operation that causes your pet no discomfort.

Whether you already own a cherished pet or about to get one, you can get a quote for their insurance cover very easily.

* It is the theobromine in chocolate that stimulates the cardiac and nervous systems (this makes it pleasant for people) which is too much for dogs and cats, especially smaller animals, and can be fatal.