No matter how you celebrate the holidays or who you celebrate them with, it’s always wise to ensure your cat or dog is set up to enjoy the festivities. Making pet safety a priority will ensure that your days are fun and relaxing for everyone, including children, visitors and your pets.
Whether you are hosting or visiting, below are some tips to help your cat or dog survive the most festive time of the year:
Keep Presents Away from Pets
Some dogs may not care about wrapped gifts, while others believe that anything on the floor is theirs. If your dog is more like the latter, keep presents up or behind a gate to avoid any disasters. The wrapping itself can be ingested and cause belly upset and/or foreign body obstruction. The bows can lead to severe issues in the intestines if they get stuck once swallowed (linear foreign body). Once the wrapping comes off, keep all presents, especially those that are edible or come with many small pieces, out of range from your pet’s prying nose or mouth.
Pay Attention to Your Décor
There’s nothing wrong with decorating the house for Christmas, but it’s important to keep your pet’s safety in mind and be aware of what you decorate with. Tinsel can be very enticing to dogs and cats, but they are a safety concern (if swallowed, they can get tangled in the intestines). Poinsettias and other holiday plants are beautiful, but they are poisonous to dogs. Discuss with your veterinarian or refer to a veterinary-based toxic plant website before displaying these anywhere near your pets. Even the fallen leaves and pollen can cause severe issues in some pets.
Lights around your home or the Christmas tree look beautiful, but you’ll need to make sure that your pet can’t get to the cords and chew on them (causing electrocution), so make sure to use common sense when decorating. Finally, if you have a live Christmas tree, the water and water additives used under the tree can lead to gastrointestinal distress and electrolyte imbalances if consumed in larger quantities. So, make sure to keep your dog and cat away from the tree when you are not monitoring them directly.
Be Mindful of Pets and Kids
Christmas is a big holiday for children. All the presents under the tree, a visit from Santa, holiday cookies and more can bring a lot of excitement. Because they might be a little more enthusiastic than usual, it is best to keep kids and pets separated as much as possible. No matter how much your dog enjoys kids, not every child will feel comfortable around your dog, and your dog might feel a little anxious regarding all of the extra chaos that the holidays bring. No matter what, it is better to be safe than sorry and do your best to keep the kids away to avoid unnecessary stress.
Consider Leashing Your Dog
When your dog is out and about in the house, it is wise to keep a light leash on them in a new home or while visitors are in your home. Leashes are a great tool to help keep your dog away from the holiday cookies and appetizers, prevents them from jumping up on people and keeps them from escaping when the door is left open after visitors are welcomed indoors.
The Most Important Pet Safety Tip: Use Crates and Gates
Every dog needs some down time, so it is best to have a crate set up in a quiet room. Put on some relaxing music or white noise to drown out the noise of party goers and give them a treat- filled toy. If you don’t have a crate, set up a small room such as a bathroom or laundry room (make sure there is nothing that they can get into), put down a bed or a towel with their scent or your scent, give them a treat filled toy and put up a gate. Make sure that they will be left alone and can have time to relax. If your dog has separation anxiety and needs to be around people, set up some gates so they are near the commotion, but can’t get into trouble.
Cats should also have a safe space to hide away from the commotion if they are stressed. Consider making a bedroom off-limits to guests and kids and place your cat’s water, litterbox, some toys and a cozy bed in the space for them to unwind.
Remember, the holidays should be a time of relaxing, sharing memories with friends and family and letting children revel in the magic. Our dogs and cats are such an important part of our lives, and pet safety is key to making sure everyone can enjoy the season together.
Erin Schneider, CPDT-KA and owner of Touch Dog Training, is a certified professional dog trainer who employs positive reinforcement behavior modification techniques intended to deliver results while building stronger bonds between dogs and their owners. Erin practiced her craft in Chicago for many years as a Senior Trainer for AnimalSense Canine Training & Behavior. There she taught dog training classes and also conducted private, in-home lessons with pets and their owners. In March 2015, Erin relocated to Colorado and is excited to share her knowledge and expertise with dog owners in the Denver/Boulder metro area.