Everybody remembers the RSPCA advert from the 1970s: “A dog isn’t just for Christmas . . . it’s for life” is probably one of the most powerful – and best remembered – campaigns in advertising history. And while animal charities still face a yearly challenge with unwanted pooches and moggies, Britain’s reputation as a nation of pet lovers is still unrivaled.
But, as Christmas looms large again, there’s something else to remember about the impact of the season of goodwill on our beloved furry friends. It’s probably the most dangerous time of the year for them!
Why? Because, like little children, for a couple of weeks, everything in their little world is turned upside down. There’s more excitement, there’s more activity, there’s more food and there’s more to chew, break, and knock over.
So if you’ve got a pet experiencing its first Christmas – or one that’s a veteran of the season – don’t forget some of the things you need to be aware of to ensure you and your furry friends enjoy a happy new year!
No matter how secure you think your tree is, if a dog decides to pull it over, it’s going over! If a cat decides it’s a climbing frame? Same deal. Furthermore, real Christmas trees are more dangerous to pets than artificial ones – pine needles can puncture internal organs if eaten, they are also particularly toxic to cats.
The only foolproof way to keep your cat or dog away from your Christmas tree is to put the tree in a room your pet can’t access. If this is not practical, try to make the tree as safe as possible. Make sure the stand has plenty of water to prevent the tree drying out and shedding its needles – but also try to ensure your pet can’t get to this water and drink it, as it could result in poisoning. Ensure the tree has a good solid base so it can’t be easily knocked over – particularly if there are little children or open fires within falling distance! Try not to have the tree near furniture or shelves, which cats in particular could use to jump on to the tree.
And don’t forget, those lovely shiny baubles that hang down are an endless temptation to untrained pets. If your pet has a tendency to treat low-hanging baubles as a game, it’s time to consider raising the tree off the floor. Also place delicate ornaments up high where they’re less likely to be knocked off & broken.
Cats love tinsel. It’s like string with extra sparkle! But it’s a short hop from clawing at a bit of tinsel to requiring a trip to the vet to remove said tinsel from a moggie’s tummy! And suddenly, your Christmas spending has ratcheted up a notch or two! If you have cats, especially inquisitive ones (and what cat isn’t inquisitive?) maybe you should think about holding off on tinsel and other decorations that hang there, all shiny and tempting. A safer alternative are the strands of beads.
Just as cats love tinsel, some dogs go absolutely potty for wrapping paper. Evidence says that it’s not the shiny paper that attracts, it’s the fact that this is the closest they’ll get to “helping you unwrap the presents”. Now it’s quite good fun to play with the dog as you unwrap your gifts – but keep an eye out. Dogs can eat quite a lot of stuff without any real ill-effects – but foil-based wrapping paper is not one of those things.
Many dog and cat owners enjoy giving their pet the occasional treat of “human” food – and generally, this isn’t harmful. The odd sliver of chicken or turkey is fine, however it really isn’t a good idea to give them large quantities of such food they’re not generally used to, as this can lead to gastrointestinal problems. But there are some human foods which are toxic for cats and dogs – never give them chicken or turkey bones (especially cooked ones) as they bones can splinter become lodged in the throat or perforate intestines and stomach. Chocolate is toxic to both cats and dogs – the darker the chocolate, the more toxic.
And when your back is turned, cats and dogs will often scavenge for food – so be aware that if you’ve covered food with foil and left it on a work surface or thrown it in an open bin, your pet may drag it out and start chowing down. If possible, always put your leftovers in the fridge or cover them securely, and try and move your food waste to your outside bin as soon as possible.
Around The House
If you have an open fire, always use a fire guard, and be aware of hot radiators. With all your friends and family coming and going, make sure the front door isn’t left open allowing your pet to escape.
If your dog or cat is wary around strangers, keep an eye on them and provide a quiet place for them to escape to if required. And keep an eye on your kids – as excitement takes over, all sorts of ideas fill their heads. Remind them that the cat or dog isn’t a toy and it’s dangerous to try and decorate them with ribbons, wrap them in paper, put them in boxes as ‘presents’ etc.
No matter how familiar your kids are with your pets, scared or angry dogs may bite and cats may scratch if provoked, intentionally or not. Do ensure new faces including children know how to approach and behave around your dog.
Make sure your pet has its usual routine – feed and walk them/let them out at the usual times. Set aside plenty of time for attention and play. Try to keep pets out of the kitchen when cooking. When you’re carrying a pan of boiling water, a dog or cat underfoot is a real danger.
Yep, even plants can be a risk to your pet at Christmas. Poinsettias and Amaryllis are popular at Christmas, but their red glow isn’t just appealing to humans – many dogs and cats will find these plants irresistible too. It’s therefore important these plants are kept out of reach, as they are poisonous and can cause mouth or stomach irritation from just eating a small part of the plant. Mistletoe can also be dangerous – the berries, in particular, can be even more toxic than Poinsettias.
Pets as Gifts
Buying a pet as a gift is fine – as long as the person receiving the animal has asked for a pet and knows that they are signing up to a 15–20 year responsibility. Never ever buy a pet as a surprise gift for somebody. Also, because Christmas is usually such a chaotic time, it’s best to try and arrange to collect your pet after Christmas to avoid undue stress on the animal.
Please, if you are considering buying a pet as a gift, really think it through before you do so. Pet ownership is a big responsibility and shouldn’t be entered into lightly. Any shelter worker will tell you that their most busy time of the year is just after Christmas, as people bring them unwanted pets. Don’t add to the problem by buying a pet for somebody on a whim.
If The Worst Should Happen
A chicken bone, a piece of tinsel, a chocolate overdose, even a carelessly placed candle or an open door can all be hazardous to your beloved pet – and these days a Christmas visit to the vet’s can be a costly affair. So if all else fails, make sure you’ve taken out Pet Insurance with Protect Your Bubble.
And have a very merry Christmas from everyone at Protect Your Bubble!