Iowa State University

News Service

News Service:

Annette Hacker, director,
(515) 294-3720

Office: (515) 294-4777



Dr. Kim Langholz, Veterinary Medicine, (515) 294-4900

Teddi Barron, News Service, (515) 294-4778

Animals make great companions, not great gifts

AMES, Iowa -- If you think a puppy or kitten will make the perfect holiday gift, think again, says an Iowa State University community veterinarian.

"Think about all the new responsibilities of pet ownership," Dr. Kim Langholz said." Is this the best time of year to bring a new pet into the household when the family is already caught up in holiday activities, obligations and stress?"

Think about walking the puppy in the sub-zero temperatures, snow and wind. Think about cleaning the kitten's litter box and grooming the new pet. Do you have enough time to properly socialize the new pet?

"No matter what time of year it is, it's a good idea to sit down as a family and make a list of the pros and cons of adding a pet to your life," Langholz said. "There are many benefits to pet ownership. But consider all aspects and responsibilities involved in caring for a living being before getting an animal."

Before bringing a new companion animal into the house at any time of year, Langholz recommends asking yourself and your family the following questions:

  • What species are we interested in adding to our lives?

  • Is this species legal to own in our community? Some areas do not allow ferrets, pit bull dogs, constricting snakes, etc. Do not risk having your pet confiscated.

  • Is our home appropriate for the animal we are considering? Do we have a fenced-in yard or a large enough house?

  • If we live in an apartment, are we allowed to have this type of animal? Are we allowed to have any animals?

  • Have we researched this particular animal so that we are aware of its unique environmental, nutritional, exercise, grooming, housing, etc. needs?

  • Are we willing to make a financial and emotional investment which may last anywhere from eight years to more than 20 years? Many species live for 10 to 20 years. Some exotic species live even longer.

  • Can our budget handle the basic needs of a pet right now? There is no such thing as a free kitten, puppy, rabbit, etc. -- food, grooming supplies, bedding materials and housing supplies, veterinary care -- these all require money.

  • Are we aware of possible health problems that this species (or breed) is prone to developing? Hip dysplasia? Heart diseases? Allergy problems? Liver problems?

  • Will we acquire this animal from a reputable breeder or will we adopt the animal from the local humane society?

  • Who will care for the animal? Feed, water, exercise, groom, train, socialize, transport to the veterinarian, clean the cage/aquarium/litter box, etc.

  • What arrangements will we need to make if we go on vacation? Boarding facility? Pet sitter? Family member or friend?

  • How will we budget for an emergency health need for this animal?

  • "Undoubtedly there are other factors to consider, so please, think before you invest your heart and finances in a new companion animal," Langholz said. "Be a loving, responsible pet owner and recognize your family's limitations."


    Quick look

    A family should consider all the responsibilities of caring for a companion animal before bringing one into the household. Iowa State University's Dr. Kim Langholz recommends several questions to ask beforehand.


    "No matter what time of year it is, it's a good idea to sit down as a family and make a list of the pros and cons of adding a pet to your life."

    Dr. Kim Langholz, Iowa State University community veterinarian