I have to confess, I absolutely adore the holidays. I don’t even mind the parts that most people don’t enjoy all that much, like the inevitable last-minute dash on Christmas eve for that one present you forgot, huge crowds in every retail store within a 10-mile radius…I even have a soft spot for ugly Christmas sweaters.
But as much as we enjoy them, the holidays can present certain situations that may be stressful or even potentially dangerous for our furry family members. However, being aware of these possible scenarios in advance can help ensure that our pets have the opportunity to enjoy the holidays as much as we do.
Here are a few tips to help make this the happiest of holidays with your pets.
Avoid Holiday Ingestible Hazards
Dogs and cats love to explore the world with their mouths, which can sometimes cause them to swallow things that were never meant to be eaten – including some human foods that can be harmful to them.
Here are a few items we may have around our homes during the holidays that can be hazardous to pets if ingested:
- Toxic holiday plants such as holly, mistletoe, amaryllis, and Christmas lilies.
- Christmas tree water (which can cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea).
- Potpourri, both liquid and dried (swallowing liquid potpourri can cause ulcers in a pet’s mouth and stomach).
- Edible ornaments made of dough or gingerbread.
- Holiday leftovers (cooked turkey bones, corncobs, and plastic utensils can also cause serious harm if swallowed).
- Alcohol, which is toxic to both dogs and cats.
- Bread dough containing yeast (since yeast continues to expand and ferment in the stomach after it’s swallowed, it can cause potentially life-threatening bloat).
- Fatty foods (these increase the risk of pancreatitis in pets).
- Chocolate (it contains theobromine, which affects the central nervous system. Baking chocolate is particularly dangerous; it can be fatal in quantities as small as 1/10 of an ounce per pound of body weight if ingested).
- Nuts – particularly macadamia nuts, which are toxic to dogs.
If you suspect your pet has swallowed something poisonous, DO NOT HESITATE to call your veterinarian or a pet poison helpline immediately. Time is critical! The ASPCA Poison Control Center (888-426-4435) and the Pet Poison Helpline (800-213-6680) are available 24/7, even on holidays (consultation fees may apply).
Manage Holiday Stress
Chances are, plenty of family and friends may be stopping by to visit this holiday season. Some of your guests may not be comfortable around dogs or cats, or won’t know the proper ways to pet them – especially children. This is a great time to teach kids how to approach and interact with your pet calmly and safely. Supervise each interaction, and watch your cat or dog for any signs of stress, such as growling, avoiding eye contact, tail-tucking, or trying to escape.
Not every pet is outgoing and sociable. Strangers and/or family dropping by can overwhelm your dog or cat. You can help relieve your pet’s anxiety by teaching him to be comfortable in his crate or securing him in a separate room with his own blankets and toys until the festivities are over. Plug-in pheromone diffusers and sprays are also very helpful in alleviating stress for cats.
Animals are creatures of habit. Although the holidays can be hectic, try your best to stick to a normal routine that can provide structure for your pets and help make them feel calmer. And never underestimate the benefits of daily exercise in reducing stress – this goes not only for dogs and cats, but for humans too!
Be Aware Of Other Potential Holiday Perils
Be sure to keep your pets in mind when you light candles, menorahs, and luminaries. Although it’s tradition to leave candles on a menorah lit for at least 30 minutes, leaving your pet alone with burning candles while your family opens presents could end up being disastrous.
Place candles or menorahs on a stable surface out of reach, and consider securing your pet in a crate whenever there are open flames around. You can also use tea lights with flameless candles in place of traditional candles.
Christmas Tree Trimmings
Glass ornaments, ribbon and tinsel are beautiful, but they can pose a threat to our pets – especially to cats, who are particularly attracted to tinsel and ribbon. If swallowed, these items can cause gastric upset, vomiting, or a dangerous GI obstruction.
If you have a playful pet who likes to entertain himself with ornaments, replace glass or fragile ornaments with plastic or nonbreakable ones. Better yet, place them totally out of reach where they can’t be chewed or swallowed.
Loose electrical cords can also cause safety issues. Secure loose or dangling cords, and cover them with cord covers so your pet isn’t able to reach them.
Your Cat Climbs the Christmas Tree
Does your kitty turn the Christmas tree into her own personal playground? If so, try to set up the tree in a room that can be closed off with doors. Some veterinarians also suggest creating a blanket of aluminum foil or double-sided sticky tape around the base of the tree, since most cats dislike walking on these surfaces.
You can also secure your tree to the ceiling with fishing line to keep it from falling over if your cat does decide to try to scale Mount Tanenbaum!
Potentially Dangerous Holiday Toys
It’s so much fun to go holiday shopping for our pets – they deserve something special! But some toys, even ones created especially for cats and dogs, can be dangerous. For dogs, avoid toys that are small enough to be swallowed, those with loose strings or ribbons, and ones stuffed with beads or beans. For cats, steer clear of toys that have ribbons, string, or yarn, and remove any plastic eyes or noses from toy mice to keep them from being swallowed.
If your dog or cat receives a questionable toy as a gift, to be on the safe side follow your instincts and keep it away from them.
Which leads us to….
Include Pets In Holiday Festivities, Including Gifts
Having the happiest of holidays with your pets definitely includes celebrating with them! Pets love being involved in our activities. No matter how busy we are, making an effort to set aside some extra time with them each day for play, love and attention will make a big difference in how our pets view the holidays.
And now for the fun stuff…presents from Santa! We all know how much our pets love getting presents, so if you haven’t yet found that perfect gift for your dog or cat, here are a few suggestions. (FYI, some links in this article are affiliate links, which means if you click on them and make a purchase, I’ll receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. This helps keep Good Pet Parent up and running, so thank you for your support!)
Gift Ideas For Dogs
- Kong interactive treat dispenser, a high-quality, non toxic chew toy and treat dispenser that also keeps dogs mentally stimulated and engaged.
- Festive dog sweater to keep your dog warm and stylish!
- Dog booties to protect their feet against extreme heat and cold, and while hiking.
- Smart collar with GPS and activity monitor, which can track your dog’s exact location, monitor his daily activity, and make custom recommendations based on his age, breed and gender.
- Dog selfie stick, which snaps onto the top of any smartphone and uses a squeaking tennis ball to get your dog’s attention, for those perfect Instagram moments!
- DNA Test by Embark, which provides an accurate breed mix, genetic disease risk, and heritable traits profile so you can better provide personalized care for your dog.
Gift Ideas For Cats
- Refined Feline Kitty Ball Cat Bed, sophisticated and modern wicker cat furniture that blends seamlessly with human decor.
- Interactive laser toy that automatically beams laser light in random patterns to keep your cat entertained while you’re busy or away.
- Water fountain. Cats are fascinated by running water, and this beautiful and functional fountain not only entertains them, but encourages them to drink more to stay hydrated.
- Heated cat bed, which is especially great for senior or arthritic cats.
- Cat stroller, allowing your cat to join you on walks or runs outside.
- Laptop cat scratcher, your cat’s very own laptop – complete with plug-in fluffy toy mouse!
Gift Ideas For Both Dogs And Cats
- New Christmas stockings, because what fireplace mantel is complete without stockings for our furry kids too?
- Reversible dog/cat blanket to keep them warm on long, cold winter nights.
- PetCube Pet Monitoring System, an interactive camera that connects to your smartphone and allows you to monitor, talk to, and play with your pets remotely in real time.
Although the holidays can be somewhat stressful for both pets and people, with a little advance planning we can make sure they are enjoyable, magical, and safe for our pets. Wishing you and your furry kids much joy and peace this holiday season!
Do you have any additional tips for getting through the holidays smoothly with your pets? Please share them in the comments below!