6 Holiday Gift Ideas for Animal Lovers

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  • A donation to an animal rescue or wildlife organization is always welcome, and some offer fun extras in return.
  • Don't underestimate the appeal of animal-inspired gifts of a practical nature. A bird feeder or well-chosen flower pot can bring wildlife into the yard. Or find a great photo of Fido for a mug that's useful as well as adorable.

These gifts are sure to make their (metaphorical) tails wag!

We all want to pick holiday gifts our friends and family will love. After all, the whole idea of gift giving is to bring them joy, not just rack up a credit card balance. But even from a pragmatic personal finance aspect, it's better to take the time to pick a good gift than waste your money on something they won't use.

But it isn't always easy. Take the animal lovers in your life. The go-to gift for most folks who love animals is some bit of decor featuring their favorite animal. But no matter how much they love frogs, trust me when I say they definitely don't need yet another themed frog figurine.

Instead of more knick-knacks, focus on gifts with meaning and/or practical value. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

1. ‘Adopt’ an endangered animal

Many wildlife groups, nonprofits, and zoos offer the ability to "adopt" an animal as a way to support the organization. These "adoptions" often come with fun extras like an "adoption" certificate, pictures of the animal, information packets, and more. Costs and inclusions will vary, but in most cases it should count as a donation for tax purposes.

2. Donate to an animal rescue

For grown-up animal lovers, a direct donation in their name to a reputable animal rescue organization may be better than an admittedly adorable "adoption" packet. Plus, it's a win-win; cash donations are typically tax deductible. Or you can even use your credit card rewards to donate.

As for which cause to pick, consider asking your loved one if there's a particular organization they want to support. Or do a little digging yourself. Your local SPCA is always a good bet, or you can donate to a larger nonprofit. Most organizations will offer some sort of digital certificate you can print up to show that you made the donation on your loved one's behalf. Or you can get creative and make your own!

3. Gift a zoo or aquarium membership

If your gift recipient is lucky enough to live near a zoo or aquarium, consider giving them an annual membership. This gives them a great activity to do whenever the mood strikes, plus it helps the organization continue to provide care to its inhabitants. If you want to go all out, include a gift certificate for a special activity, such as an animal feeding or behind-the-scenes tour.

4. Invest in habitat enhancers

Give the gift of a little extra wild in their life with things that will improve their home habitat. For example, a well-placed bird feeder can mean year-round visits from all sorts of wonderful flying friends. The right plants can also improve the appeal of your yard; native plants are ideal, but pollinator-friendly flowers can also be a great addition.

5. Go green with eco-friendly pet toys

It stands to reason that most animal lovers are also environmentally conscious, as that's where the animals they love tend to, you know, live. But just as most human stuff has been taken over by disposable plastics, so, too, has most of the pet products. Instead of picking up any old chew toy for your friends' furry families, look for eco-friendly toys made of sustainable or recycled materials.

6. Print pet-inspired practicalities

While your loved ones probably don't need more generic decor featuring their favorite animals, practical products that feature their pets could be another thing entirely. Does their dog have a mug that deserves to be on a, well, mug? Or maybe a personalized blanket they can share? If you can get your paws on a great photo of their pets -- social media is usually an easy bet for this one -- there's no end to the wonderful things you can create.

NEVER gift a live animal

Yes, folks who love animals often have (or want) pets. Do not buy them one. A living creature is not a gift -- it's an obligation. It's not fair to your loved one or the animal. If they wanted a pet, chances are good they would get one themselves.

The only real exception to this rule is for folks who are the parents or guardians of a child who is mature enough to handle the responsibility. And even in this case, it's often best to let the child be a part of the selection process, rather than surprising them with a puppy under the tree. This is especially true for large pets like cats and dogs, as finding a pet with the right personality to get along with your family is vital.

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