Christmas is a great time for families, but most of us find that we need a break sometimes, even from our nearest and dearest.
Visitors and excitement can be stressful for pets, too, so it’s up to us to help them feel safe and happy.
For dogs, normal routine is very important. They don’t want to be cooped up indoors on Christmas Day. Take them for a walk and enjoy a bit of fresh air! They’ll be calmer and you’ll work up an appetite. And do make sure that they have somewhere quiet to chill out; ideally their bed in its normal spot.
Cats get stressed by changes in their home, especially if their usual quiet spot in the spare room is now full! Make sure they have somewhere to retreat to, and that their food bowl and litter tray are easy to find. No one wants to spend Christmas Day clearing up puddles.
Some cats love to play with boxes or chase wrapping paper. Indulge them, and enjoy spending time with them. But if they would rather slink off somewhere for a quiet Christmas, don’t force them to join the party.
I heartily agree with the Dogs Trust’s “A dog is for life, not just for Christmas”: puppies (and kittens) are not suitable Christmas presents, especially for children. But if you are getting a pet, collect them a few days before Christmas so that they can settle in while it’s quiet. Make sure you take them to the vet a day or two afterwards to check for any problems.
What about pet Christmas presents?
Don’t give them too much to eat; they won’t manage a full Christmas dinner! A few treats or a small amount of lean meat from the roast is okay, but it’s really best to stick to their usual food at the usual time.
Pet toys can be great gifts, but choose good quality toys which won’t have the stuffing pulled out in thirty seconds. Toys which keep them active are excellent. Fishing toys let your cat stalk and play without the danger of mangled fingers. Balls that hold food are great; your pet will keep playing until the food runs out. Reduce their normal food to stop them getting fat!
Some common Christmas things to be careful of:
- Chocolate is toxic to dogs and cats – it causes breathing problems and even heart failure. A chocolate bar can be deadly for a Spaniel-sized dog. Don’t put wrapped chocolates under the tree – a dog will sniff them out easily!
- Mince pies, fruit cakes and Christmas puddings contain grapes, raisins and sultanas which can cause kidney failure in dogs and cats; they also contain alcohol. Keep them well out of reach!
- Tinsel, ribbon and string can cause intestinal blockages. If your pet plays with these, supervise and take them away afterwards.
- Make sure that the tree is secure or you might find a cat bringing it crashing down! Tuck the wires for the lights well out of the way so they don’t get chewed.
- Holly, mistletoe, poinsettias and even the Christmas tree can cause vomiting and diarrhoea if eaten.
If you do have an emergency, remember that all vets have cover for 24 hours 365 days a year, even on Christmas Day, but your normal surgery might be closed. Phone up and you’ll hear a recorded message telling you what to do, or check their website.
I’d like to wish all of you and your pets a very safe and happy Christmas and all the very best for the New Year.