I was taught as a shelter volunteer to discourage people from giving pets as gifts. Adopting a pet is a very personal thing, and success depends on both the human-animal bond and the environment available for the pet. Choosing a needy cat for a person who will be away from work all day is a recipe for disaster. Getting a rambunctious kitten for an elderly person may cause problems as well. A cat with special needs will have extra costs that can be very high and may be a financial burden to someone who can’t afford the expense.
People who think of animals of “things” that can be given, like a pair of socks or a tie, may not look closely into the animal’s health and needs. Though kittens that come into shelters are usually inoculated for disease, they may already have been exposed. Since often they are adopted quickly, the disease, mainly URI*, may not have had time to develop and comes on once the cat is home. This potential sickness may have been explained to the original adopter but not necessarily passed on to the recipient. There is nothing worse than a sick (or dying) kitten on Christmas morning.
The following from The Creative Cat is a very thorough and innovative article on the many facets of pets as gifts. In our new and more aware shelter society, it may not always be wrong to give a pet, as long as it is done with love, knowledge, intelligence, and full disclosure.
*URI: (Upper Respiratory Infection) Respiratory infection caused by one or more viral or bacterial agents. Also known as a “kitty cold”.