PETS AND THE HOLIDAYS
Pets and the holidays! Keeping your pets safe during this season, particularly newly adopted dogs and cats, can be a challenge. New members of your family are beginning to adjust to new surroundings and new people, and then everything changes!
KEEP YOUR NEWLY ADOPTED (OR LONG-TIME) PET SAFE AND HAPPY
Starting with Thanksgiving, and continuing through to about mid-January (when all the post-holiday sales are finally over), things are jumping in many households. Visitors arrive and depart, trees are brought inside for a time (I wonder what our pets think about that), and delicious smells fill the air. Magical for you and me. But this time of year can be frightening for a dog or cat. And it’s particularly stressful for one who hasn’t yet fully acclimatized to its new surroundings.
Here are a few of the possible safety issues, and suggestions on how to handle them:
Visitors with small children can be a major issue when it comes to keeping both them and your pets safe. Empathy does not develop in children much before the age of 3. Many children do not fully grasp that what hurts them will also hurt another living creature before age six. Even after six years old, a child may not understand that screaming and running, while fun to them, can be terrifying to an animal.
KEEPING THE KIDS AND THE PETS SAFE
If you have a very small animal (Chihuahua, Yorkie, kitten), you should either crate her or put her in a quiet room away from the excitement. This will prevent injury to the animal, and a possible bite to the child. Generally, the smaller the animal, the less tolerant and more frightened they are of children who may move quickly and unpredictably.
For a larger (and calmer) dog, you can leave them among the people only if you are sure that either you, or the child’s responsible parent, will supervise at all times. Keep an eye out for any sign of distress or aggression. Many animals have never been around children and may react poorly. If this happens, remove the dog from the situation immediately and crate or confine.
PREVENTING THE BITE
Many years ago, friends of ours came by with their three small children. The little girl, out of the best of intentions, was determined to make friends with Wilma, my large, very shy dog. I had not been paying the attention that I should have. I was horrified to find that she had gently trapped my dog in a corner and was insisting on petting her. Wilma had never shown any aggression, but she was obviously uncomfortable. Her ears were flattened and her body crouched down to make herself small.
We were all fortunate that I came across the situation when I did. Wilma was rapidly being put in a position where her only defense would have been to bite. Although I hated to be firm with guests, my first duty was to protect my pet. In doing so, I protected the child as well. Keep a watchful eye on small children when they interact with your pet – and prevent the bite.
THE ESCAPE ARTIST
In the excitement of the holidays, both kids and adults run in and out of a home, often forgetting to close and latch doors behind them. In the chaos, you may not even realize that your pet is gone until later, making it that much harder to find them.
HOW TO PREVENT THE ESCAPE
Make the exit a two-step exit. Block the front door with something, and have guests go through the back door, and then through a gate or a garage to exit. The extra obstacle will make it harder for a pet to slip out unnoticed. You might hang a sign next to the door, and another next to the gate, reminding everyone that there is a pet in the house. Also, PLEASE microchip your pet. Someone still has to find them, but once found, it is so much easier to get them back.
Although cats and kittens are the most likely culprits when it comes to destroying holiday decorations, dogs can get into trouble as well. Keep all breakable ornaments high on the tree for dogs. Leave them off completely for cats. Some cat owners find that they just can’t have a tree at all. Keep an eye on your pets. If it looks as if they’re planning on eating decorations, you might consider putting your tree in a little-used room. Close the room off with a baby gate, or something higher for cats, and enjoy the tree through the doorway.
EATING TOO MUCH OR THE WRONG KINDS OF FOOD
I’m sure you’ve all seen the lists of what not to feed your dog or cat over the holidays (or any other time). Still, it is human nature to slip your pet some of the goodies overflowing the table, and your pet will NOT object.
PREVENTING TUMMY PROBLEMS
To save an emergency trip to the vet on a holiday (we’re talking big bucks, here), put the animal away during dinner. Either crate, or put in a separate room with a child gate or the door closed. Later, after all the excitement is over, you can reward him with a tasty bite of turkey meat or another wholesome treat.
One of your guests is allergic to your dog or cat. If this person has never been around animals before and is unaware of an allergy, this can put a damper on any holiday festivities. As an allergy sufferer myself (fortunately not to animals), the sudden eye-watering, nose clogging joy that histamines cause is no fun for anyone.
HELPING YOUR GUEST BREATHE AGAIN
There isn’t an easy fix for this. Even if you crate your animal in another room, the house will still be full of pet dander. Keep an emergency stock of antihistamine in the house and offer one to your guest. Bear in mind that they may not want to take medicine. This might be too much for him or her, and they will have to leave. Plan on getting together with them during the holiday season at another location – a restaurant, or their house. No need to apologize, but don’t let this get in the way of enjoying each other’s company.
The holidays are a stressful time for many of us – even if we also find them joyful. They are so much harder on our pets, who don’t understand what we’re celebrating, or why their lives have been turned upside down.
Look at the scene through your pet’s eyes. Make sure they have a quiet place they can retreat to, where they know no one will intrude. Remember to ensure that they have plenty of water and that they’re taken outside on a regular basis. Eventually, our animals learn to put up with our “eccentricities”, and at least tolerate, or maybe even enjoy, the annual celebrations. Until then, make sure they’re safe and protected.
May you and your fuzzy companion both have a wonderful holiday season!