Animal shelters across the UK see a huge rise in the number of animals they have coming in during the months following the holiday season. As puppies and kittens lose the adorable baby-ness they had on Christmas morning, some people find themselves less invested emotionally.
The old phrase that a pet is not just for Christmas is as true now as it was when it was first coined 41 years ago by the then National Canine Defence League, today’s Dogs Trust, which has 20 centres across the UK, including one at Shoreham.
The RSPCA, which is headquartered in Horsham and has two Sussex animal centres – Mount Noddy in Chichester, and one in Brighton – complains that the number of unwanted animals still rises in the aftermath of the festive period – but it might be that giving pets as gifts might not be all humbug, although it might be better to wait until after the most hectic period.
Instead of looking for younger animals to give to younger people, why not consider an older animal for an older friend or relative?
Older pets have many advantages over the cute younger versions of themselves – they are more likely to be house trained, less likely to be so boisterous, and provide the warmth and companionship of a living creature.
The benefits of having a pet are well documented. Dogs and cats live very much in the present, and this embodiment of what matters now tends to rub off on people, and can an astounding effect on symptoms of depression and feelings of loneliness.
Emily Stott is one of the RSPCA’s spokespeople. She says there are a number of benefits to owning a pet which can have particular benefits for older people.
“Evidence suggests that when we stroke animals – or in the case of dogs, when we just look into their eyes – our bodies release oxytocin, a hormone that brings about bonding between individuals, as well as helps us feel more optimistic, and lowers blood pressure,” she says.
“Owning a dog also makes people less vulnerable to the physical effects of stress and it can encourage people to get out and about for exercise, which can also help initiate interaction with other pet owners.”
However Emily did also say: “The RSPCA does not advise the giving of pets as presents unless it is known that the person receiving the pet is willing to take on the responsibility of having a pet, can afford to do so and can give them everything they need to be happy and healthy throughout their life.
“We’d urge anyone thinking of purchasing a pet – whatever the time of year – to consider the long-term commitment required to properly care for an animal.”
Christmas is a busy and hectic time for many households. Unusual noises, activities and extra demands upon the household can make it difficult for any pet to settle into their new homes.
“So it is not always the best time to introduce them into the household. However, for some people, the festive period is a calm, quiet time and may well be a good opportunity to introduce an animal into the home as families tend to be around the house with more time to spend with them,” says Emily.