Sadly, too many pets are just for Christmas

This dog was left in woods in Glenrothes to fend for itself
This dog was left in woods in Glenrothes to fend for itself

A pet can seem like the ultimate Christmas gift.

Nearly everyone would love to have a new puppy or kitten in their life and it may seem like the perfect present.

These guinea pigs were a Christmas present, but were soon forgotten

These guinea pigs were a Christmas present, but were soon forgotten

For well over 20 years, the Scottish SPCA’s message to the general public has been simple and clear – do not buy a pet for a present at Christmas.

Sadly, as in previous years, it’s anticipating too many people will have ignored its advice.

In the coming weeks, Scottish SPCA centres across the country will be bracing themselves for the arrival of cats, dogs and other pets, as the appeal wears off or the reality of looking after an animal kicks in.

Graeme Innes, manager of the charity’s rescue and rehoming centre in Deeside, said: “We want every animal to find a happy forever home but the Christmas season is generally the most chaotic time to introduce a pet to the family.

The novelty of having a kitten or puppy can wear off

The novelty of having a kitten or puppy can wear off

“Many households will host parties or have people over for dinner and we have seen instances of puppies or kittens getting accidentally injured through being stood on, having a door closed on them or just getting hurt in the general chaos that comes from a crowd being in a small place.

“For most people, any type of routine or sense of normality goes out of the window over the festive period and this further complicates bringing a new animal into the fold. Generally, people are around the house more at Christmas and so the early days spent with the pet does not paint a true picture of what it can be like to look after if people are working full-time.”

When normal life resumes in early January, the novelty of having a young animal at home can begin to wane.

Many people return to full-time work and may have to fork out for someone to walk the dog or risk neglecting its welfare by leaving it at home for hours at a time.

Graeme said: “Across the wider society, we have seen a trend in recent years where we see a spike in people abandoning animals or handing them in to us at the end of February and into March.

“It seems that people try their best to make a Christmas pet work for a couple of months but for those who give up it seems the responsibility is simply too much.

“Many people will bring animals to organisations like ours when they do not want to look after their young pet anymore, but the future for a lot of pets can be much more bleak if they are abandoned and left to fend for themselves.”

Animal rescue centres, like the nine the Scottish SPCA facilities across the country, often operate full to, or at capacity, due to the volume of animals in need of its support.

The influx the charity sees in the weeks and months after Christmas puts a huge amount of stress on the organisation.

Graeme added: “With our long-standing commitment to never put a healthy animal to sleep, which we are incredibly proud of, we will never turn away any we find abandoned or are asked to care for.

“If an animal is familiar with the sights, smells and sounds of a house, that makes introducing changes such as Christmas decorations and having people over much simpler and that is why we reiterate not buying over the festive period time after time.

“In an ideal world all the animals in our care would find a loving home for life but if someone has been considering adopting at Christmas, it is better to wait until the decorations are down and things have returned to normal.”