For many people, getting a pet for the holiday can be a dream come true, whether it be Christmas, the New Year, or Valentine's Day. Heck, you've probably dreamed of waking up to a holiday cat under the Christmas tree! Still, despite how heartwarming a dream is, getting a cat as a gift may not always be such a great idea.
Should you get yourself or your friends a cat for the holiday? Gifting someone a pet for the holiday is an excellent idea... if they're ready to be pet parents. Discuss it with your loved ones and make sure that they (and the whole family, including their pets) are ready for the new kitten or adult cat before you buy or adopt. Be wary of warning signs that signal that you should wait, and never impulse buy or surprise someone with a new pet.
Many cats' sweet, gentle, and affectionate nature makes them the perfect fur-baby for people of all ages. Still, it's best to do all you can to prepare yourself or your loved one for a new kitty. With this guide, you can prepare for this new chapter and get access to a downloadable starter kit to welcome home the fur-baby.
When and How to Give Someone a Cat for the Holiday
Getting cats or other animals for the holiday is tricky. Usually, experts recommend against surprise holiday pets since things can go wrong if the recipient isn't ready for a feline friend. Now, sure, some folks may be cat lovers. But they could also be unfamiliar with cat behavior, lack the financial stability to care for an animal, or live in countless other circumstances that could send their new kitten to a shelter.
For these reasons, you should never surprise anyone with cats or other pets for the holiday season. Instead, discuss the logistics and responsibilities of pet ownership in advance and make sure they're confident they can be a pet parent. Otherwise, you might accidentally set them up for failure.
So, how can you be sure about who's ready for that discussion? Typically, the most eager people are cat lovers who have been considering pet adoption for years but never got around to it. In other cases, they may not know how to go about it. You could be their guiding light in welcoming their new furry feline friend home. A few of the questions you could start with are below:
- Do you understand basic cat behavior?
- Do you or any of your housemates have cat allergies?
- Are you allowed to own a cat indoors in your home or apartment?
- Do you think you could care for a cat over the next 10+ years?
- Is your household (e.g., partner, kids, pets, etc.) ready for a kitten or adult cat?
- Will you be caring for your cat on your own or with someone to help you?
- How much time, money, and attention can you dedicate to your cat (for training, play, etc.)?
Make sure you set enough time aside to discuss these questions in-depth. Now, you may not get to address every single question your friend has, but you'll at least ensure fundamental pet parents' responsibilities don't blindside them.
Even that much can make all the difference for your friend's future with their new kitty. Why? False expectations are just one of the top three reasons people forfeit their cats to shelters, along with having to move addresses and bad behavior.
There's one more thing you can do to blow your friend's mind this upcoming holiday: Pay for the adoption and vaccination fees, and throw some cat gifts in there, too, such as scratching posts and catnip toys. After all, this is a gift – and when's the last time you may someone pay for their own Christmas present? Covering the initial costs of their new kitty will help ease any stress they may be feeling about their new fury-baby and will certainly be appreciated.
How to Wrap a Cat for Christmas
Before you get too excited: No, you will not actually be completely enveloping a cat in wrapping paper. You'll simply be dressing the kitty as a gift.
This cute and fun idea will surely get a giggle out of your friend. But be forewarned: You should do this docile adult cats that won't get too crazy and try to shred their way out of the wrapping paper. Also, don't keep the cat in the wrapping for too long. Make sure it's only long enough to make an impression on your friend on the big day.
Follow these instructions to create an adorable presentation of your friend's new kitty:
- Unroll a sheet of wrapping paper on a flat surface, about 3 ft across.
- Have the cat lay down in the middle of the paper.
- Take one side of the paper and loosely lay it over the cat's back. Repeat with the other side.
- Make sure to leave the kitty's tail out, so it doesn't feel trapped.
- Tape both folds of paper in place on the cat's back.
- Bring the excess paper from the back up on top of the cat's bum and tape it in place (Tuck it beside the cat's tail, so you don't cover it up).
- Gently tuck the excess paper in around the front paws and tape it in place.
- Place a Christmas bow on top of the kitty's head, and you have a Christmas-wrapped cat.
Know When Not to Gift Someone a Pet for the Holiday
Despite how rewarding it can be to gift someone a cat as a gift, it may not be the best idea for everyone. So, you should be able to discern who in your life may be ready to welcome a cat to its Forever Home and who's not.
Here are some signs that will help you identify the latter:
- Your friend asked for a pet impulsively. Did your friend's interest in cats seem a bit sudden? If they've never expressed a desire or plans to adopt a pet before, cat or otherwise, they might need a bit more time to consider the logistics and responsibilities of cat ownership.
- Your friend is moving. Moving to a new place is not the best time to adopt a pet. Moving accounted for 8 percent of cat surrenders in a National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy (NCPPSP) survey. On the other hand, personal problems were responsible for 4 percent of surrenders. That said, if your friend's in the middle of moving around Christmastime this year, it's best to wait until next year to get them a cat.
If you notice any of these signs, be honest about it and offer some help for your friend to better prepare for a pet next year, if that's what they truly want. They'll surely thank you for your transparency and kindness!
The Perfect "Welcome Home" Kit for New Cat Owners
When you're confident that your loved one can handle a brand-new holiday cat, help support them with a little "welcome home" kit for the new four-legged family member.
Food and water bowls
Food and water bowls are an essential part of life with a cat. Although some people tend to choose their pets' gear (e.g., bowls, litter box, etc.) based on aesthetics, it's also important to consider the materials.
For instance, some say that cats can get acne when eating from dirty ceramic and porcelain bowls because of all the bacteria and harmful germs that accumulate much more easily on these materials than stainless steel.
Now, this doesn't mean that stainless steel bowls shouldn't be cleaned. They're just less porous than ceramic and porcelain, so they're less likely to retain harmful germs and microorganisms that can either make your cat sick or irritate its skin. Regardless, any of these three materials is better than plastic.
Plus, stainless steel food and water bowls are easier to clean. Many cat owners say that keeping a clean food bowl can be quite a hassle, especially if the cat eats wet foods. For instance, if the cat doesn't eat all its wet food, it'll dry up and stick to the dish. That said, a stainless steel bowl will be much easier to maintain. However, you can keep ceramic and porcelain dishes clean enough by washing them once daily with hot water (some even suggest boiling water) and soap.
Lastly: Your friend's going to need more than one set of food and water bowls. Some cat owners say that it can get pretty exhausting to keep one food bowl clean enough for daily feeding. So, your friend may be better off with two or more sets of feeding equipment instead of one.
Comfortable cat bed and cushions
"If I fits, I sits" is the mantra that most cats live by. A happy kitty has many lounging options, some low, some high, but all of them great places to sit and judge everything from afar. Even if you're only getting your friend a single cat for Christmas, a set of multiple beds is one of the best cat gifts you could give them.
The best options are multipurpose beds, such as those attached to cat trees, or featuring enrichment elements, such as bells or wand toys. You can also get a cat bed that sits at high vantage points by mechanisms like hanging from suction cups on windows or secured to a wall. Still, no matter what you buy, make sure your friend knows that they can pretty much expect their cat to sleep in odd places like on the tops of shelves and dressers or on chairs. And remind them to keep the cat off their bed, unless they want a "present" left on their pillow in the mornings!
Enrichment Toys for the New Cat
Playtime is crucial to a cat's mental and emotional health. Although not all cats will have the same energy level, you or your loved one will need to carve out as much quality time for the kitty as possible to ensure a fulfilling life. Not only is this essential to nurturing a strong bond, but it can also lower the chances of you or your loved one surrendering the new kitty to a shelter for bad behavior.
But remember: enrichment isn't limited to toys. Sometimes it can be fundamental design choices in the home setup. That said, basic items like litter boxes and hiding places are best, as they're "significantly associated with reduced numbers of prey brought home by indoor-outdoor cats," according to a recent study.
In addition to environmental enrichment, your friend should provide toys that engage their cat's natural behaviors, such as hunting, pouncing, and chasing. Some of the best items for all cat breeds are wand toys, which encourage specific hunting behaviors like swatting and pouncing, and mechanical toys like a flipper fish, perfect for chasing.
Tips for Feeding the New Kitty
The quality of a cat's diet can influence numerous aspects of its physical and cognitive health. Malnutrition can lead to various medical consequences, from low energy to long-lasting diseases.
Help your loved one prepare for their new kitty by making them aware of the risks involved in feeding their new cat a poorly balanced diet, such as:
- Pancreatitis: Excess fat can lead to pancreas inflammation, which is the core cause of this illness
- Feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD): Dehydration and low moisture content in the cat's food can lead to the development of this condition
- Heart disease: If the cat's diet contains excessively high sodium concentrations (or if they're eating table scraps), the blood pressure will rise
No matter what type of food they eat (dry vs. wet vs. homemade), the new cat will require the following nutrients in their everyday meals:
- Kittens: up to 10 g daily
- Adults: up to 12.5 g daily
- Kittens: up to 4 g of total fat per day
- Adults: up to 5.5 g per day
- Carbohydrates: The average daily cat diet should be made up of about 15 percent carbs. Between 180-200 calories daily is the norm.
- Vitamins: A, D, E, K, B₁ (thiamine), B₆, B₁₂, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, folic acid
- Minerals: Calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sodium, potassium, chlorine, iron, copper, zinc, manganese, selenium, iodine
Once the new cat owner knows what they're looking for in their kitty's diet, they'll need to consider a few more details to determine which food type can best meet these dietary criteria. Below are some of the most common feeding styles that work well for cats of all breeds and ages.
Commercial Dry Food
Dry foods like kibble will likely contain anywhere from 6-10 percent moisture and include ingredients such as meat, poultry, fish, grains, fiber, and milk. Many dry foods contain key vitamins and minerals as well.
Owners often choose dry food when they intend to free-feed their kitties since it won't stick to the bowl like wet food. Plus, many people feel more comfortable with dry kibble since they don't have to measure specific dietary elements themselves. Instead, the proportions are already taken care of.
According to veterinarians, the best option for dry cat food is Purina Pro Plan LiveClear Probiotic Chicken & Rice Formula.
Commercial Wet or Canned Food
Wet food is a must-have for cat owners. You'll seldom meet a cat owner that doesn't feed their cat some canned or semi-moist food, even if you only serve it once a day. But most don't know that there are health differences between these two.
Both have a high water content - around 60-65 percent for semi-moist foods - meaning the cat will get higher energy content per calorie. However, make sure your friend knows how to choose the healthiest wet food since semi-moist options may contain high sugar and salt levels. This makes it unsuitable for some kitties.
That said, the top wet food available for cats is the Hill's Prescription Diet k/d Kidney Care Chicken & Vegetable Stew.
You can wrap all these cat ownership tips up for your friend and send it as part of their gift by downloading the eBook featured at the end of this article!
Give a Cat a Forever Home this Holiday
Thinking about getting someone a cat for Christmas this year? Make sure they're ready first. You can't just buy someone a cat all willy-nilly, especially if it's a surprise.
Instead, it's best to talk things through in advance and make sure your loved one is ready to welcome a fur-baby home. That way, you can increase their chance of success in this new chapter as a pet parent and make the transition a little easier.
Run a few of the questions discussed here by your loved one before buying a new kitty, and download the new cat owner's guide below to ensure they know all the cat care basics.
About the Author
My name is Jazmin "Sunny" Murphy, and I am a science communicator and web content writer. Since 2015, I've been producing scientific content that is written in plain English. My love for life science has influenced my professional and academic aspirations since I was a kid. I hold a Bachelor of Science in Zoology and 21 units of a Master's education in Environmental Policy & Management (concentration: Fish and Wildlife Management). You can learn more about me and my science writing and reporting work at my website, Black Flower Writing Services.