Christmas is a time for giving and sharing, decorations and trimmings, friends and family, all the wonderful things that we love about the holiday season. For our pets, however, some of our favorite traditions can be an accident waiting to happen. Remember these tips to ensure that your Christmas remains safe and fun for everyone!
- We love them. Our cats love to climb and explore them. While this may not always be a safety hazard, an endless series of lovingly decorated toppling pines can become quite a headache! Anchoring the tree’s base should help keep it steady, or if you want to keep kitty out altogether–well, nevermind. Who are we kidding?
- Tree ornaments are truly beautiful, and to some pets, irresistible! If you have a nosey dog or cat, or if you are constantly surrounded by wildly wagging tails, move your favorite ornaments up toward the top of the tree where they are out of reach. Chewed plastic ornaments and stray hooks can be harmful to the digestive tract and potentially cause punctures or blockages, and broken glass is dangerous for everyone! Have a cat who simply wants to bat the lower hanging ornaments loose? Simply squeeze the hooks tight around the branches and they should stay put. Most of the time.
- Decorations made of anything edible, like strands of popcorn and cranberries, or your kid’s kindergarten picture framed in painted macaroni noodles, will also need to be kept out of reach. That wreath of Apple Jacks might not seem appealing to you, but to a pooch with a taste for the ‘forbidden’, it is a much coveted delicacy.
- Tinsel is especially tantalizing, but it is also especially harmful. This shimmering, sparkling, dancing, magical addition to your Christmas tree is not something most kitties can resist. Often, cats will reflexively and unwittingly swallow anything stringy, and unfortunately this can result in some very serious complications like an intestinal blockage. Dogs are also at risk, so a pretty safe rule of thumb is: if you have pets, you don’t have tinsel!
- If you prefer a fresh, live tree for Christmas, be wary of any additives you may put in the water to keep it preserved. Cats and dogs will sometimes drink from the water well, and what’s good for the tree is not good for the pet! So, please, fresh water only, unless you have your tree base well barricaded from wandering tongues.
- Are your halls decked with boughs of holly? Well, they shouldn’t be. Not if you have pets. Holly, mistletoe, and poinsettias are all just as toxic as they are beautiful. If you have these plants in your home, be sure to keep them far out of reach. And remember, lilies and daffodils, even the bulbs, are also poisonous.
- Lights around the tree, lights up the staircase banister, lights carefully strewn about the outside of your house–they’re literally what make makes Christmas so bright! But if you have a new puppy, or a cat, or a bunny, or any other small pet who enjoys chewing wires, be very wary of the placement of your lights and extension cords to avoid any unpleasant holiday surprises! Likewise, a punctured or swallowed battery is equally as dangerous.
- Everyone loves to cozy up to the warmth of an open flame, even our furry friends. Keep a safety screen up on your fireplace and keep candles up and out of the way of wagging tails. Even candles on mantels and shelves are not safe from the long, fluffy tails of more curious cats, so you may want to opt for the security of safe, fake battery operated candles instead–the flicker without the fear.
Friends and Family:
- You love your dog, but Uncle Joe may not, and little Suzie might a little too much. Your cat is the source of all your happiness, but he is also the source of cousin Mary’s itchy, watery eyes. If you have family staying for the holidays, it is best to plan ahead and to know who is an animal lover, like you, and who would rather not wear muddy paw prints and pet hair on their brand new (albeit hideous) Christmas sweater. Taking preventative measures and setting limits, for pets and people, is the best way to keep the peace in your holiday season.
- On the other hand, if you are the visiting guest, and your family has lovingly obliged your request to bring your pet along, remember to be respectful of their rules. Clean up doggy messes right away, keep the litter box clean to avoid odors in your host’s home, and bring plenty of familiar toys, treats, and your pet’s regular food in order to keep them at their best behavior!
- Whether visiting, or being visited, Christmas time can be very stressful to some of your more timid dogs and cats. If you have a dog who is fearful and/or aggressive toward other pets or people they are not familiar with, it is best to allow an extensive amount of privacy. A kennel in a quiet room can be a safe and happy place for a pet who is feeling exposed and out of their element. If your pet is simply rowdy and excitable, try keeping him or her penned until after all of your guests have arrived. This way, they can get all of their sniffing, bouncing, and dancing about out in one fell swoop instead of getting overly excited with every single ring of the doorbell.
- Explain to small children that the cat hiding under the sofa is a little scared of all the new people in the house, and that if they leave her alone she may come out and say hello when she feels more comfortable. But if your cat is feeling truly anxious, it may be best to put her in another room and close the door until your visitors have gone home.
- Avoid giving your dog (and cat!) too many table scraps. We all know how it feels when we’ve had too many of those rich and decadent foods. Ham, dressing, cookies and pies, we know when enough is enough (okay, not really) but our pets might not know when to quit. This could lead to upset stomachs, which could lead to many unpleasant messes to clean up later. Keep unattended trashcans secured, water bowls full, and please, no matter how much he begs, no alcohol for Fluffy!
- Goodies. Goodies everywhere. It is so easy to forget that some of our favorite treats can be very harmful. Chocolate, for example, can be highly toxic for some dogs, and some candies that have the artificial sweetener, xylitol, are like poison to a pet’s central nervous system. Sometimes the candy itself may not cause too much damage, but their wrappers can wreak havoc on the intestinal tract. Foil packaging, plastic candy cane casings, and cellophane are made to line holiday treats, not your dog’s stomach.
- Pretty simple. If it’s too cold for you outside, it’s too cold for your pet. Be it bunny, dog, or cat, please bring your pet in when the temperatures are unbearably low. If for some silly reason you can’t do this, remember to provide fresh water as their will become frozen over, and a warm shelter where they can escape from the elements–though we are quite certain that being inside with the family would make for a very Merry Christmas.
- Traveling during the holidays can sometimes be just as perilous as Aunt May’s fruitcake, so when traveling in inclement weather with your pet, be prepared for anything. Bring a leash and collar, even if you usually don’t, because you never know when you might require it in an emergency situation. The last thing you want to happen after getting stranded or in a minor fender bender is for your pup to get loose and wander off, especially in the midst of dangerous wintery traffic.
- It’s frightening enough to lose a pet at home. The only thing worse is losing a pet while visiting out of town. Not only are they in unfamiliar territory, but if it is cold and snowy, or if the weather is just generally frightful, well-meaning samaritans are more likely to pick up an animal off the streets–even if they aren’t actually lost or abandoned. Make sure your cat or dog is microchipped and wearing clear identification. It is best to have your cell phone number listed on the tags, ensuring immediate contact should your little wanderer be picked up.
- The salt on your front steps and walkway can irritate, dry, and crack your furry friend’s paw pads, so be sure to wipe them clean after each visit outside. Otherwise, your dog may lick their paws clean themselves, and in doing so they ingest the salt. A little may not be harmful, but moderation is key and too much salt in the system can become problematic. If you live in the city and walk your dog regularly on salted sidewalks, you may want to ask Santa for some doggie booties!