If you’ve ever seen a cat climbing up a fully loaded family Christmas tree, you’ll realize how appealing all our decorations and celebrations can be for our pets – or should I say “challenging”? What, for us, may seem festive and fun can often be worrying or downright dangerous for our pets.
Much the same can be said about all that delicious food that we look forward to so much. For many of us, the thought of onion gravy, garlic, mince pies, Christmas pudding, chocolate, grapes, sultanas, raisins and nutmeg, not to mention chocolate and alcohol, sets our taste buds racing – but did you know that every one of these is toxic to cats and dogs?
Then, there are all the decorations and plants that we use to make our homes look beautifully festive at Christmas. Again, did you know that holly, mistletoe, amaryllis, poinsettia, lilies and pine sap are all poisonous to our pets?
Of course, we all want to have a wonderful, happy and festive Christmas. So, here are a few pointers to help keep our pets safe over the holiday season:
- Welcoming visitors invariably means an upset to the normal, everyday, running of our homes so make a special effort to maintain, as much as possible, some sense of normality in your pets’ lives. Try to ensure that their normal, regular feeding and exercise routines can stay in place to give them added reassurance. A long walk will not only tire out the kids but will also help tire out the dog!
- Similarly, make sure that when visitors come all doors and gates remain securely closed to stop pets accidentally straying onto the road.
- Some pets will be more upset than others by the arrival of new people with all the changes that this brings – new smells, more noise and certainly more excitement ⎼ so create a safe place where your pets can go if they feel the need to be somewhere quiet. Normally, we’d recommend a spare bedroom or maybe the utility room, if you have one, but we know that, at Christmas, space may be at a premium so try to find somewhere that you know would work and get your pet used to going there, with their favourite toys, before the Christmas period starts. Quite often, we get random displays of fireworks at Christmas and again, ensure that dogs and cats have somewhere to go where they can feel safe and calm at these times.
- When strange children are in the house, always keep an eye on any meeting of pets and children and, for the sake of both the pets and the children, never leave them together unsupervised.
- All those fine foods are attractive to pets as well as to humans so take care not to use edible decorations on your Christmas tree: your dog will find them and pull them down! Not only is there a very real risk to your pets’ health because of the theobromine that chocolate contains (which is seriously poisonous to dogs) but also the knowledge that even a mild canine gastric upset will have lasting implications for your holiday period and the carpet. For all the same reasons, avoid leaving presents which may contain chocolates or other festive foods under the tree.
- Just as children find the twinkling lights on the tree to be mesmerizing – cats, dogs and rabbits find the electrical cables to be irresistible so hide them away securely or use the armoured cable shields which will prevent any pets from chewing though a live flex. Cats and dogs love to chew, and they will do so at the first opportunity.
- Don’t leave lit candles anywhere where your pets can access them or knock them over.
- Glass tree decorations look lovely, but they can shatter and have caused many injuries to pets in previous years. Try to choose decorations which are labelled as being non-toxic (if you can) and vacuum regularly around the tree to pick up the pine needles – those from a real tree contain poisonous pine sap and those from artificial trees can also cause problems if ingested.
- Finally, however much we love our pets, they don’t need our Christmas dinner as well! Avoid feeding pets rich, unusual foods which cause gastric upsets and never allow them to have chicken or turkey bones which splinter when chewed and can easily kill them. A new toy or a long-lasting chew will be much appreciated and invariably safer!
We hope that this list of possible dangers will help you put a few simple preventative measures in place to ensure that you, your family and your pets, all have a wonderful, safe and relaxing Christmas.