1) LIMIT TABLE SCRAPS. When you have a dozen dinner guests, and everyone from Aunt Ethel and Uncle Fred are all offering table scraps, it may be too much for a small dog or cat to handle. Even big pets are too often treated for everything from minor tummy upset to pancreatitis.
2) WATCH WHAT YOU LEAVE OUT. Whether you’re leaving cookies out for Santa or the cheerful chocolate coins known as gelt for children, remember chocolate can make pets sick; avocado is hazardous to birds (no guacamole for Polly). Pets can choke on chicken or turkey bones, which may also cause a gastro-intestinal obstruction.
3) CANDLES IN THE WIND. Decorative candles and those on the menorah can easily be knocked over by playful kittens or curious cats. Aromatic candles may smell good to us and seem benign, but may be very dangerous to pet birds (who have very sensitive respiratory systems).
4) AVOID PRICKLY CHRISTMAS TREES. When choosing a tree, consider one with pet friendly needles such as white pine or Douglas fir. They’re not as likely to stick to pet’s paws.
5) TIDY WITH TREE NEEDLES. Puppies and kittens can munch on errant needles, and that may cause choking or stomach upset. Pet parrots (given the chance) may naturally perch on a branch of your Christmas tree, no harm done – great photo op. But if Polly begins chewing on real needles or those from an artificial tree, it may be life-threatening.
6) NO CHEMICALS UNDER THE TREE. Don’t add chemical preservatives to prolong the life of your tree if pets have access to that solution. While the solutions to prolong tree life don’t seem to cause severe reactions, pets can get an upset tummy.
7) HOUSE GUESTS. Some pets are social butterflies, others not so much. For some pets the commotion caused by little children is simply not the peace and quiet they’re accustomed. Those pets might be happier secluded in a room, door shut with holiday music playing in the background. Also, with that front door frequently opening and closing – some dogs get out, and so do indoor cats. Be sure all pets are microchipped for identification (and registered with the microchip provider), and have a collar and an ID tag.
8) HOLIDAY PLANTS MAY NOT BE SO FESTIVE. In truth, poinsettias are generally not the poisonous killer they’re made out to be, although too much may potentially cause stomach upset. Fresh holly and mistletoe are toxic, particularly the berries. Also, cats may be attracted to amaryllis lilies, red azaleas – all potentially dangerous.
9) TINSEL AND RIBBON IN THE TUMMY. Cats and puppies love to play with tinsel and ribbons; if they ingest enough of this glittery stuff, it can create serious gastro-intestinal obstruction, and may be life threatening.
10) WHAT ARE TREES FOR? Ask any cat – trees are all about trying to climb them. Secure the tree so that if a cat takes a flying leap – the tree won’t topple over.
11) ORNAMENTS ARE MADE FOR CATS. If you have cats, glass ornaments should be kept off the tree. Find a cat-proof place, such as behind a glass cabinet where they can be shown off. Cats tend to believe that shiny glass ornaments are, of course, meant to be batted at. Broken ornaments are a hazard to people and pets, and some may have lots of sentimental value. Also, tinsel hanging from a tree is an equivalent to an invitation for any cat to jump and grab.
12) PETS DESERVE PRESENTS TOO. As the family gathers for opening presents, include all members of the family – even those with paws. This doesn’t mean you need to spend big bucks – simply take a dog’s toy away a few days before the holidays – and now open on the big day; your dog won’t mind the “re-gifting” as long as you make a fuss. Cat toys can be simple as a plastic bottle top, wine cork or used tissue box with catnip inside it, Of course, the best thing you can do for your cat is to wrap the present in catnip-scented wrapping paper. The wrapping will be far more exciting than the gift.