The glee of surprising someone with a cute puppy or kitten may seem like a picturesque Christmas morning.
But delight can give way to worry if a pet poorly suits its new owner's personality, schedule or budget.
"It's like people trying to set you up on a blind date, except your blind date would be your companion for the next 15 years," said Jennifer Berry, executive director of AZ RESCUE in the Ahwatukee area of Phoenix. The nonprofit organization finds homes for dogs and cats that it has rescued from euthanasia lists at Maricopa County Animal Care and Control's (MCACC) shelters.
Tammy Wilson-Teeter, co-owner of Wiggles and Wags Pet Resort in Tempe, emphasized the need for new pets and owners to have compatible energy levels.
Living arrangements also may be challenging, the Ahwatukee Foothills resident said. An apartment complex, for instance, may limit the size or breed of dog that a person can have.
A gift certificate to go pet shopping "would just be better long-term for everyone involved," Wilson-Teeter said. This includes the pets' well-being.
Aprille Hollis, a spokeswoman for MCACC, said, "We don't want our animals coming in and out of the shelter. They've been through enough already."
People can buy gift certificates at the county's shelters, Hollis said. A refund also is available if the certificate isn't going to be used.
For people who decide to bring a new pet home during the holidays, Berry said realistic expectations are essential.
A new pet could adjust to the rhythm of its new home within one or two weeks, Berry said. But that would be a quick adjustment. Less-socialized or high-energy pets could take between one and six months.
"It's a gradual process," Berry said.
• Kiali Wong is interning this semester for the Ahwatukee Foothills News. She is a senior at Arizona State University.