Written by Jessica McCawley It’s the holiday season! Keep these 7 tips in mind when including your pets in your holiday festivities:
Watch your plants. Many popular holiday plants are toxic to pets, such as azaleas, lilies (for cats), holly, mistletoe, and poinsettias. Avoid these plants entirely or keep them out of your pet’s reach. If you use real trees to decorate, opt for a spruce or fir tree as needles from certain varieties of pines can be toxic to cats. Shed needles (real or fake) are sharp and can injure your pet if ingested, so clean them up as soon as you can. Cover water reservoirs for live plants to prevent your pet from drinking the water, especially if you use fertilizers or other chemicals. If you’re not sure if a plant is toxic, use this list of toxic and non-toxic plants from the ASPCA to check.
Got a climber? Some cats (particularly young ones) LOVE trees. Make sure your tree is secure by using a sturdy, level base and using fishing line to secure it to the wall or ceiling. This will be an extra precaution to keep it from falling under their weight. At night or when no one is home, keep your cat in a room with no access to the tree. Give your cat more playtime, puzzle feeders, and enrichment toys to make the tree seem less appealing. If you don’t have one already, invest in a cat tree so they have something to scratch, climb on, and perch in besides your carefully-decorated Christmas tree.
Carefully deck the halls. Place heavier and sturdier (bite-proof) ornaments near the bottom of your tree and keep lighter, more fragile ones out of your pet’s reach. Instead of using string or ribbon to hang ornaments, use wire hooks and wrap them around the branch for extra security. If you have a dog or cat that tends to chew, conceal and protect electrical cords with tape and/or covers. Cats in particular love shiny tinsel (don’t we all?), but eating it can cause serious issues. Place candles where tails and paws won’t knock them over, and only light them when you’re there to supervise. If you have a gift shredder, place a baby gate or fence around the presents or store them away until you pass them out to their recipients.
Resist beggars. Avoid feeding your pet table scraps. Many holiday foods are too rich and fatty compared to an animal’s normal diet. Chocolate, alcohol, uncooked yeast dough, raisins and grapes, and poultry bones are extremely harmful to pets and should not be given to them. If you’re leaving out milk and cookies for Santa, place them out of your pet’s reach. As always, if your pet eats something that could be toxic or injure them, call your vet or the Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435 immediately.
Party on… but don’t force the fun. Some pets aren’t into the hustle and bustle of holiday parties. No problem! If your cat or dog isn’t a party animal, give them a spot to escape to with some of their favorite things, such as a kennel or another room away from the noise. Likewise, if they can get aggressive or too excited around a lot of people, keep them in an area away from party guests or have them stay with a friend/sitter for the night.
New Year’s Fireworks. Fireworks often a way to bring in the New Year with a bang, but many pets don’t like them. Keep your pets inside when fireworks are going off in your neighborhood. If they’re anxious, remain calm, play white noise or soft music, and give them a distraction such as a puzzle feeder or toy. If your pet tends to hide, let them be and check in on them from time to time. Thundershirts or wraps can help soothe some pets by applying constant, gentle pressure. If your pet has a history of severe anxiety with fireworks, storms, or other loud noises, talk to your vet about possible treatments.
Include them. Though many of these tips seem to exclude pets from certain holiday activities, there are plenty of safe ways to include them in the fun. Take holiday-themed pictures with your pet with fun collars, sweaters, or headbands to post them on social media or send them out as your family’s Christmas card. Consider making or buying a special dinner or treat just for them with pet-safe ingredients. Take this season as a time to get rid of any old, broken toys and replace them with new ones. Many stores also have special holiday-themed goodies just for your four-legged friends! If you tend to host or go to a lot of parties, make sure to give your pet extra attention when you’re home with extra playtime or with cuddling and movies.
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