You may have seen a major increase in animal appreciation over the years. There are so many funny and adorable videos online, after all, that it’s easy to become obsessed with watching them. Like many others, you may have even made this a regular, happy part of your daily routine. Animals can certainly help cheer you up when you are otherwise feeling a little down in the dumps—especially come wintertime.

This month, while you’re brainstorming ideas for presents, you may know someone who adores dogs, or cats, or guinea pigs, or bunnies. But they don’t actually have a companion animal of their own right now and the thought of buying them one for Christmas seems like the perfect solution! The problem is, as animal shelters continuously report over the years, many cute animals bought over the holiday season ultimately get dumped once the festivities (and the exciting newness of having a pet) wear off.

Unfortunately, some people lose interest in animals once they grow out of the “cute” phase. Sometimes, it’s because they didn’t realize how big of a responsibility they are, or how big of an expense they can be (factoring in food, vet bills, grooming, toys, pet insurance, dog walker, etc.)

The bottom line is, animals should never be spontaneous and surprise “presents”. While some videos of children opening a box with a puppy can seem truly heart-warming, the idea of treating a pet like an inanimate object is the first step towards treating them as though they are altogether dispensable.

If you think someone you love would make a wonderful companion to an animal, discuss it with them first. Make sure they understand the responsibility and long-term commitment, including the need to exercise a dog in the wintertime. If you live with this person, recognize that you will likely be part of the everyday routine and care for this animal as well.

When you do get a pet, no matter the time of year, it is important to remember they have their own unique needs and personalities. Make an effort to pick up on their cues. Although animals cannot communicate with us in the same language, they will usually indicate when they are cold, hot, happy, sad, affectionate, standoffish, or under the weather. We also recommend adopting an animal from a rescue organization or animal shelter, as there are already so many truly great pets without homes this holiday.