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Pets as a Present

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In fiction, a common way to get a pet is to be given one as a gift. This is usually a puppy or kitten for someone's birthday or for Christmas. For Easter, sometimes a rabbit or chick is given as a present (and then given away not too long afterwards). This trope is a heartwarming way to start off A Boy and His X story or introduce a Loyal Animal Companion.

Though this is frequently Truth in Television, it isn't advised. Animal welfare organizations and professionals universally agree that pets are a long-term commitment that should be agreed upon by the entire household. Pets should also be planned and prepared for before buying. As the saying goes "Pets are for life not just for Christmas."


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    Comic Books 
  • In Supreme Power, little Mark Milton is given a puppy for his first birthday. Unfortunately, the puppy smells that he's not human and barks at him, causing little Mark to panic, and, well... that was the day they realized that he had heat vision.
    "Huh... well... I guess Spot was kind of the right name after all."

    Comic Strip 
  • One strip of The Far Side has a boy receiving cockroaches for a Christmas or birthday present and a voice offscreen says, "Maybe next year you can have that puppy."

  • In this fanfction of The Addams Family with the same title as the series, it's revealed that Kitty Cat the lion was given to Wednesday for her first birthday when he was a cub.

     Film — Animation 
  • Finding Nemo: Dr. Sherman gives Nemo to his niece Darla as a birthday present. This is rather unfortunate as Darla keeps killing her fish upon receiving them after shaking their plastic bag too hard.
  • Lady from Lady and the Tramp was brought as a puppy by Jim for his wife's birthday.
  • At the end of Teen Titans: The Judas Contract, Raven gives a great dane puppy to Damian, showing how they've grown closer to one another.
  • Toy Story: At the end of the first movie, Andy is given a puppy for Christmas. The puppy's name is revealed in the second movie as "Buster".

     Film — Live-Action 

  • Deconstructed in A Dog's Purpose. A man surprises his girlfriend Wendi with a puppy when their relationship is on the rocks. Wendi's lease doesn't allow for pets, so she has to keep Bear a secret. She's also clueless about how to raise a puppy. Wendi ended up giving Bear to her parents when he grew too big for her. Her parents abused and neglected Bear, ultimately releasing him onto the streets when they didn't want to deal with him anymore.
  • In Frankensteins Cat, a little boy is given a dog for Christmas... an undead one sewn together like Frankenstein's monster.
  • In Harry Potter: Harry gets his pet owl Hedwig from Hagrid as a birthday present in the first book. Hermione gets a cat for hers from her parents in the third book.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire, Jon Snow gifts to his half-brothers and himself direwolves.
  • Stephen King's short story "L. T.'s Theory of Pets" fully shows the downsides of this trope. It focuses on the crumbling marriage between narrator L.T. and his wife, whose marital problems are only made worse by the pets they give each other as presents (his wife gets LT a dog, which dislikes him instantly and sides with his wife, while LT gets his wife a cat, which immediately takes to L.T. instead) in a pet variant of Babies Make Everything Better. In a foreword for the story, Stephen King recalls how he got the idea from a Dear Abby column that criticized the trope:
    Stephen King, quoting Dear Abby: A pet is just about the worst sort of present one can give anyone. It makes the assumption that the pet and the recipient will hit it off, for one thing; it assumes that feeding an animal twice a day and cleaning up its messes was the very thing you had been pining to do.
  • Deconstructed to a horrible extent in Trainspotting; Tommy gets a kitten for his ex-girlfriend to try to get back together with him. She rejects them, and the kitten ends up causing Tommy's premature death by toxoplasmosis (he was HIV positive).
  • Defied in the Eva Ibbotson book Journey to the River Sea. The heroine wants to gift her foster family with a pet before meeting them, but her governess tells her to wait until they know the household and what pets they already have. Which is for the best, because the family is made of prissy English xenophobes who don't want to acknowledge that they live in Brazil.
  • At the end of the first Fudge book, Tales of a Fourth-Grade Nothing, Fudge comes back from the hospital after he swallowed Peter's turtle Dribble, and their parents shower him with presents to celebrate his recovery, making Peter feel as if they don't care that he, Pete, has lost his pet. But then their dad brings in a present for Peter too: a dog. In memory of Dribble, Peter names the dog Turtle.

     Live Action TV 
  • In The Flash, Season 3, episode "Borrowing Problems from the Future" , Barry and Iris move into a loft together, and H.R. gifts them a pet turtle named McSnurtle as a "housewarming gift". The turtle quickly vanishes again afterwards.
  • Friends: In "The One With A Chick And A Duck", Joey buys a chicken from an animal sanctuary as a gift for Chandler after seeing (and misunderstanding) a news report about people who buy chicks for Easter, and then find they cannot properly care for them. Chandler tries to return the chicken, but changes his mind when he finds out the chicken is most likely going to be euthanized, and instead buys a duck. The two birds continue to make appearances in the rest of the series until after season 6.
  • Mr. Roper buys his wife a parakeet for their anniversary in Three's Company, although it's really only a pretext for him to buy himself a partner for the pet bird he already owns. He gives the bird to his neighbors for safekeeping so he can surprise Helen, but Jack accidentally sits on the box containing the live animal.
  • Drake & Josh: Backfires in "Merry Christmas Drake and Josh". The Freudian Excuse for their Christmas-hating parole officer is that, when he was a kid, his mother got him a caged monkey as a gift. The monkey freaked out and attacked him before escaping, traumatizing him for life. Later in the film, Drake and Josh gift the officer a new, kind chimpanzee as a pet, which softens the officer's heart and causes him to love Christmas again.
  • Victorious: After the two break up, Jade buys Beck a dog so that he'll take her back. This ends up backfiring when the dog ends up mauling Beck's dad.
  • The Big Bang Theory: at the end of the season 5 episode "The Transporter Malfunction", Howard and Bernadette give Raj a Yorkshire Terrier after his failed date with a woman called Lakshmi. Raj is instantly charmed by the dog, whom he names Cinnamon. The dog appears in several episodes afterwards.

  • In Marshmello's music video "Happier", a girl portrayed by Miranda Cosgrove receives a puppy golden retriever on her birthday, which becomes her best friend. A few years later, the dog dies of old age, which devastates her. At the end of the video, the protagonist is now grown up and her daughter, who celebrates her birthday, receives a similar puppy, which makes her mother shed a tear.
  • Swedish musician and comedian Povel Ramel mentions in his memoirs how he was once forced to do this when he went last minute present shopping on Christmas Eve, and the only store he found that was still open was a pet store. Among other things, his then-girlfriend got a monkey for Christmas...

    Video Games 
  • Emperor: Rise of the Middle Kingdom: The Palace can have a menagerie of exotic and local animals. Local wildlife can be caught by some gods and exchanged with other cities, who usually gift one from their climate in return (e.g. forest climates can supply pandas and tigers, desert climates can supply vultures and antilopes, etc.). There's no real effect on gameplay (except when the mission requires a certain amount of animals), but if the Palace is destroyed the animals will escape, and the predators will wreak havoc on your walkers.

    Western Animation 
  • Courage the Cowardly Dog: In "Freaky Fred," we learn that Muriel's nephew, the eponymous demented barber Fred, was given a pet hamster when he was a lad who Courage's fur reminds him of. Unfortunately, as with the hamster, this inspires Fred to be... naughty.
  • Doug: "Doug's Christmas Story" reveals that Doug received Porkchop as a Christmas present.
  • Futurama: Fry attempts to get Leela a gift on Christmas Eve, but all of the stores are closed early in preparation for Santa's arrival, except the pet store. He almost gets her a swarm of lizards, but ends up going with a parrot instead.

    Real Life 
  • According to a legend, if the King of Siam didn't like someone, he would give them a white elephant as a present (or make it known he was to do so). In this culture white elephants were sacred, so the recipient couldn't put it to work but still had to feed it, creating a drain on his resources. Turning down the present would be a grave insult, so the only way to avoid it was to absent yourself from court—which was the intention. This led to the term "white elephant" (meaning a troublesome or unwanted gift).

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