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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 note  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 Strips 
  • Dennis the Menace (US): One comic has Dennis give his mom a wrapped up box with holes in it, and tells her she can better open her present now because it's getting hungry.
  • 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."
  • One print collection of Garfield was called "Never Accept a Gift With Airholes."

    Fan Works 
  • In this fanfiction 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.
  • In Daphne Greengrass and the Boy Who Lived, Harry sends Daphne a kneazle as a belated birthday present the summer after third year.

    Films — 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.
  • Exaggerated in Hercules, where Pegasus is literally made from clouds by Zeus to be a gift for the newborn baby Hercules. (This is obviously a departure from the myths, where Pegasus was created from the blood of Medusa.)
  • Lady from Lady and the Tramp was bought as a puppy by Jim for his wife on Christmas.
  • 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".

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In John Wick, the titular character gets a beagle puppy named Daisy as a last gift from his deceased wife as something to remember her by. But when Daisy is cruelly and pointlessly killed by Iosef Tarasov, John takes up arms again in search of revenge.
  • Homeward Bound II: Lost in San Francisco: Riley, leader of the gang of strays, was given as a Christmas gift for a young boy when he was a puppy. The boy showed no interest in him whatsoever, so the parents abandoned Riley in the street, giving him a severe distrust in humans.
  • Near the end of Lemonade Mouth, Wen gets Olivia a kitten as a gift since Olivia's elderly cat had recently died.
  • In the Sky One adaptation of Hogfather, despite Albert's advice against it, when Death-as-the-Hogfather leaves the hovel of a boy who asked for (amongst other things) "a puppy called Scruff", the boy's stocking is yapping. Given that the family is so poor he also asked for a pair of trousers he didn't have to share, it's probably as well we don't see the aftermath of this.
  • It wasn't for him, but Charlie in The Santa Clause is seeing cuddling with someone's Christmas puppy while riding along in the sleigh during his father Scott's first tenure as the new Santa.

  • In Bridge to Terabithia, part of the bonding between Jess and Leslie — the two protagonists who were the Only Friend to each other — have Jess giving Leslie a puppy he picked up at an adoption drive, some weeks after Leslie gave Jess a sketchbook and art set for his birthday. The Disney adaptation added a throwaway line from Leslie earlier on, with her remarking randomly "I'd love to have a dog."
  • In Bunnicula this is how Chester joined the Monroe family; He was given included with an additional gift of some works of G.K. Chesterton to Mr. Monroe, which was where the cat got his name. Harold the dog believes that this may have contributed to Chester's love of reading, and the wild imagination that stems from it.
  • 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 ends up giving Bear to her parents when he grows too big for her. Her parents abuse and neglected Bear, ultimately releasing him onto the streets when they don'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.
  • Discworld:
    • Implied to be a problem with swamp dragons in Lords and Ladies, as one of the slogans of the Sunshine Sanctuary is "A Dragon is For Life, Not Just For Hogswatchnight".
    • This is the origin of the Patrician's Menagerie, as explained in The World of Poo. Various foreign ambassadors gift him animals from their homeland as a diplomatic gesture. According to the head keeper, none of them have ever asked the Patrician if he wants them.
  • In Phoebe And The Hot Water Bottles, seven-year-old Phoebe longs for a puppy, noting that unlike a puppy, no matter how much you love a hot water bottle, it can never, never love you back. She has asked her father for one several times, and he replies that she is too young to look after one, and he is too busy to help. When she heroically puts out a fire using her one hundred and fifty-eight bottles, he rewards her with a puppy.

    Live-Action TV 
  • It happens twice to Our Miss Brooks. Miss Brooks gets a puppy as a prize on "Here is Your Past". In an earlier radio episode, Miss Brooks gets saddled with the titular "Peanuts, The Great Dane".
  • In The Flash (2014), 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.
  • When the Dowager Countess on Downton Abbey storms off to France to avoid saying anything to her daughter-in-law she can't take back, she makes it perfectly clear who she is and isn't angry with by leaving a puppy for her grown son Robert, an established dog lover who promptly dissolves into a gooey pile of Cuteness Proximity.
  • Cowboy Bebop (2021): After the expensive doll that Jet was trying to get for his daughter is destroyed while trying to apprehend a bounty, he gets the idea to take one of the dogs the bounty had stolen and give it to his daughter instead. Subverted when Jet's ex immediately rejects the dog on the grounds that the taxes for keeping a dog are far too high. Jet instead winds up keeping the dog, Ein, himself.

    Music Videos 
  • 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.

    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.
  • A Little Lily Princess discusses this when Sara tells the other girls about a friend of her father's who gifted his fiancée a parrot that could recite poetry and Jessie protests that the fiancée may not have wanted a pet.


    Web Original 
  • This Not Always Right story describes a woman who was given a betta fish as a Christmas present, something she considers deeply inappropriate, especially since the gifter didn't even check if she knew anything about fish (she didn't). Having been given this responsibility, however, she decided to fulfill it to the best of her ability, and contacted an aquarium rental which helped get her set up and advised her on fish care. The submitter, who works for the rental place, doesn't think she ever actually liked the fish, but she was determined to look after it regardless.

    Western Animation 
  • Big Mouth: Devin gets Devon an adopted puppy for Valentine's Day, only for her to be insulted for being given a "used dog."
  • 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.
  • Famous Fred: In a flashback we see how the family got Fred as a kitten, Sophie and Nick's father, Mike, got their mother, Jenny him for her birthday. She initially confused him for a hat (he was curled up in a ball in the hat box he was presented in) until he started moving.
  • 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. Sadly, the parrot gets out of its cage, escapes, and is ultimately blown up by one of Robot Santa's missiles.
  • Rocky Kwaterner: In "Perfect Gift", the Tikka Kids hastily have to find their mother Mary a present for Mother's Day after realizing they forgot all about it. Rocky, based on the gifts people use to give each other back in prehistoric times, decides he wants to give Mary a live chicken. First problem is to actually find one on such a short notice, which he manages with Theo's help. Then more trouble arises when the chicken escapes and Rocky has to find it. Eventually, he catches it just in time and gives it to Mary along with Theo and Luna's gifts. The chicken is not seen or mentioned again in later episodes.
  • Santiago of the Seas: In the holiday special "Three Kings' Day", Tomas receives Nacho, a green iguana, as a gift from King Balthazar.
  • In the Silly Symphonies short "The Night Before Christmas", one of the children in the house is gifted a Scottish terrier by Santa.
  • Tangled: The Series: In "The Way of the Willow", Rapunzel's free-spirited Aunt Willow shows up for Queen Arianna's birthday, with a strange creature called an umlaut as a present. During her The Reason You Suck speech, Arianna says that Willow only gave it so she'd look like someone who gives exotic presents, and that she'd have realised a pet wasn't a great gift if she understood what "responsibility" means.

    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).
  • 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 Example(s):


Let's call her Brenda....

Jenny briefly considers the name Brenda for her new kitten until she realises he's a boy and gives him the name Fred.

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