Christmas Gift

Each year when the holidays roll around, I find myself up against the same thing: what to buy for a dedicated group of impassioned animal people who are extra-deserving of holiday gifts — but for whom gift-giving rarely comes easy. 

You know the type. They don’t necessarily have everything, but most of them couldn't care less about the kind of material things that the rest of us will readily admit to coveting. Tempting the serious animal crowd takes more energy and savvy.

Luckily, I’ve had lots of practice giving gifts of all sorts and sizes to this demographic. I’ve also been fortunate enough to be on the receiving end of this camp’s holiday generosity, which means that I’ve gleaned no small measure of insight into the workings of the hard-to-gift minds of animal lovers.

It wouldn’t be too holiday-ey of me to keep this privileged information all to myself, would it?

With that in mind, I’ve decided to offer you a highly bookmark-able post to help you handle tough animal giftees for years to come. But, first, a preamble to explain my general way of thinking on this issue:

The key to gift-giving for this crowd is couched in the concept of gifts that either give rise to emotions that animals are prone to evoke — or gifts that help animals and their humans at the same time.

1. Give the Gift of Genetics

I used to think that breed ID tests were kind of silly and a general waste of money. Fast-forward more than half a decade, and I’ve since become a convert. These tests are better than they once were and now impart more than just gee-whiz information, which is why I recommend this as a gift for all of my mixed breed devotees.

But that’s not all. Breed tests are even more exciting if you factor in the human component. Last year, I gave my father the gift of information on his own genetic heritage via the National Geographic DNA test, which identifies the path of your own mitochondrial DNA in geographic terms.

How cool is that for a gift set?

2. Give the Gift of Kitten Rescue

I know this one sounds odd, but I promise that it’s an amazing — not to mention inexpensive — gift. All you need to do is write a sweet note telling your serial-rescuer giftee that you’re willing to take on the task of finding a forever home for one lucky baby this upcoming kitten season. You can even offer to take on the actual fostering detail, too. It’s a gift duo that’s actually a trio — think of all the good karma you’ll rack up!

3. Give the Gift of DIY Kits

Sure, you can always make your recipient a homemade gift, but it can often be just as much fun to prepare a gift kit for them, so that they can learn to make things for themselves.

The perfect pet-person DIY kit includes a box of materials with how-to instructions for popular pet items, like dog biscuits or handmade toys. Since so many of the pet people I know are type A sorts, they almost universally adore learning how to make neat things for their critters.

4. Give the Gift of a Holiday Litterbox Cake

I know it sounds disgusting, but litterbox cakes are always a big hit with the feline set. All you need is a brand-new box and a scoop for the kitty, a tasty cake recipe for the humans — and some imagination. Dress it up for the holidays with red and green candies for the “litter crystals.”

5. Give the Gift of Charity

Do a good deed and donate to a reputable animal cause in the pet lover's name. If you go there, just be sure that you do it right. Here’s a quick primer:

In case you’re not already aware, plenty of serious animal people have very strong feelings about certain organizations. So don’t skip the step in which you ask a reliable third party whether certain animal entities work well for your giftee. After all, there’s nothing worse than a faux pas that involves cash.

If you do your homework, the gift of a donation is almost always a win-win for both animals and their people.

Check out more opinion pieces on Vetstreet.