Okay, so maybe we aren't your pet's favorite person (second favorite? third?). Unfortunately, that is an all-too-common holiday scenario. So, if you'd like to give Muffy the gift of staying away from me this season, read on for simple tips to keep pets safe and healthy during the holidays.
They Call It "People-Food" For A Reason
Human foods may agree quite well with pet's mouths, but they often disagree quite strongly with their stomachs. While eating random table scraps and treats usually just causes a day or two's discomfort, there are very, very, very (!) serious problems that may result:
- Many common foods - and holiday treats in particular - can be deadly toxins for pets.
- Pancreatitis is a life-threatening condition that may be triggered by fatty foods.
- Bones - all bones - commonly result in fractured teeth, intestinal obstruction, and even stomach perforation.
Last but not least, holiday treats are a leading cause of Food-Amplified Tissue (FAT) syndrome, which can take a year or two off your pet's life (and lead to a lecture from me about putting Muffy on a diet).
Curiosity Can Kill The Cat - Decorate Carefully!
The holidays bring lots of exciting things for pets - shiny tinsel, ribbons galore, electrical cords running everywhere, and a big green scratching/climbing post right in the living room!
- Strings and ribbons can be deadly if ingested - aside from causing blockages, they can saw right through intestines - and the only thing more interesting to most cats than string is a shiny string. Keep tinsel and ribbon well out of reach or avoid them entirely.
- Anchor your tree to the ceiling or wall to keep anyone from tipping it over. Fake trees are best, too, since pine needles can also poke through intestines if ingested.
- Missletoe, Holly, and Ivy can all make your pets ill. Check out this link from the ASPCAfor a laundry list of other problem plants.
- Try to keep all those extra electrical wires neat and hidden.
- Don't leave candles unattended, and make sure pets can't reach them or otherwise knock them over.
Curiosity Can Kill The Cat (Again) - Keep Things Tidy!
My wife is going to laugh when she reads this - me, telling people to keep things neat and clean. But, a big part of keeping pets from getting into things they shouldn't is preventing access, so:
- Clean the kitchen as you go, and don't leave bowls of candy and the like out where pets can reach them.
- Pick up all the wrapping paper and ribbons immediately after opening gifts. December 26th is usually paper/ribbon/string foreign body day at the ER.
- Don't let the kids (or your husband) leave new toys laying around, else they get confused for chew toys, food, or both.
- If you have a ferret, lock it in the bathroom with food and water until late January. Okay - that's a little extreme, but those buggers get intoeverything!
Respect Pet's Personality and Space
Some pets are social butterflies, but many just get stressed by the all the people and commotion that come with holiday parties. It's never wrong to put the furry kids in a room of their own for the evening and let them have some peace and quiet. And even if they do enjoy a good party and are given roam of the house, you should provide a room or crate for them that's off-limits to guests in case they do need some alone time. New Year's Eve is a particular problem for many pets, with the potential for lots of noise and even fireworks - this article offers some tips for pets with noise fears.
Also make sure any random children the in-laws drag along only get to interact with pets while supervised, as kids who aren't used to pets usually don't understand "boundaries" at all. Or, suggest putting the kid in the spare room with food and water while the pets roam free. That usually goes over poorly with their parents, though.
Choosing Pet Gifts
I'm all for a new toy or special treat for the holidays. Seriously, send me something. Oh, and get the pets something too - just be thoughtful in your selection.
- Toys should be resistant to shredding into small, ingest-able bits.
- Also avoid super-hard chewables like Nylabones. These are a big cause of fractured teeth. My rule of thumb: bit down hard on it yourself - if there's no give or the pressure hurts you, Muffy shouldn't have it either. Plus, it's really amusing for anyone walking by in the pet isle.
- Avoid treats made in China, or anywhere else with questionable regulatory oversight.
Educate Your Guests
You, dear reader, are smart enough to take all this advice and avoid any unexpected visits to me and my ilk this holiday season. But it's all for naught if you set a couple dozen folks loose in your home who really think Muffy needs that turkey bone, chocolate candy, ball of yarn to play with/eat...or that despite her pulled back ears and snarl, she really just needs a belly rub right now. Make sure your guests know what is and isn't okay. If educational enlightenment doesn't seem to work, consider threatening them with fruitcake. Works for me.
Two final tidbits: make sure all pets have up-to-date ID (tags, microchips, or both) in case someone leaves a door open, and check out this article if you plan to travel with Muffy this season. Happy holidays!