Wednesday, December 28, 2022
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Wednesday, December 14, 2022
Wednesday, December 7, 2022
I got a call yesterday from a woman who was at her wit's end with her new kitten. In the span of an hour, this kitten had knocked over a bag of flour, leaving little white paw prints everywhere; climbed up the Christmas tree, knocking off and breaking a handful of ornaments; chewed the ribbon off of a decorative pillow; and took off running with the bells hanging from the front door! I (jokingly of course!) told her that it sounded like she had a pretty normal 14 week old kitten. Kittens are, by nature, inquisitive, so the experiences this owner had been having were completely normal, but potentially dangerous nonetheless. Years ago, I had a client whose Golden Retriever puppy took a bit too much interest in a gingerbread scented candle and ended up burning himself and the table with the spilled wax! Holiday mishaps aren't just things that happen to people with puppies and kittens; adult dogs and cats can get into trouble as well. So how can you better ensure that your pets are safe this holiday season?
First and foremost, never leave your pets unattended in a room with lit candles, filled candy dishes, or readily available people food. All of these things smell good and are often novel for our pets, thus attracting their attention. While it is certainly worthwhile to teach your pets leave it and drop it, now is not the time to test how well they absorbed those lessons.
If you put up a Christmas tree, best to put it up in a room that isn't a high traffic area for your pets and thus a huge draw for them to explore. No flocked trees and don't put tinsel of any kind on your tree as that's a choking hazard. Keep non-breakable, non-edible ornaments within reaching distance of your pets. Save those candy canes and glass ornaments for the sturdy branches near the top of the tree. If you have a cat who climbs your tree, make sure the stand is steady and can support their added weight. Only use cool-to-the-touch lights and keep those lights tight on the branches to reduce the risk of strangulation, and only decorate your tree with cat-safe ornaments. One of my cat-owning clients has fully embraced her tree climbers by putting up two trees in her house. The one in her formal living room has all the family heirloom ornaments on it and the gifts beneath it, and is safely shut behind glass French doors when no one is in the room. The other tree is in her family room and covered in fun cat and dog themed ornaments, all made of wood or fabric with nothing on them that can be swallowed. There are no gifts under that tree, just a fuzzy tree skirt that her cats and dog love to lay on. While I have certainly seen homes where people just put up an x-pen around their tree to keep it safe from the family dog, this will not keep out an inquisitive cat! Those gifts under the tree can be hazardous as well if they contain food. And watch those ribbons as they are beautiful, but also a choking hazard. Resist the urge to put anything in your tree stand other than water. If your pet takes a sip or a paw dip, you want them to just come up with plain water.
I saw a client last week who has a recently mobile toddler and a puppy. She told me she's considering no tree at all this year because her toddler is already trying to climb the drapes with the puppy not far behind! I told her she can still decorate, she just needs to do so with an eye toward what she can put up that is safe at this stage of her child's (and her puppy's) development. This is the year for decorative throw pillows, cute floor rugs without fringe, festive artwork on the walls, and decorations on her fireplace mantel. This is not the year for snow globes, candy dishes, or breakable ornaments.
I love poinsettia plants, but I only ever keep them on my front porch, away from collie noses. Keep mistletoe out of the reach of pets, as well as that beautiful amaryllis plant or holly, if you have pets who are curious about the plants you bring indoors.
Finally, resist the urge to take your pets to sit with Santa, put antlers or blinking lights on their heads, or put them in silly holiday sweaters IF they hate wearing them. There are a lot of dogs and cats who are game for these holiday shenanigans, particularly if there are treats involved, but there are equally as many who hate wearing anything at all and doing so creates unnecessary stress for them.
Don't worry if the neighbor's tree is prettier than yours because they don't have pets in the house. And don't feel jealous of your friend whose kids are too old to pull down the decorations or eat handfuls of holiday candy when you're not looking. Your children will be grown up soon enough. Enjoy your pets and your children at whatever stage they are in. Make those necessary adjustments to your holiday decor to keep them safe. And by all means DO decorate if that's what you like to do. The holidays are a time to celebrate and enjoy. Just make them safe and fun for everyone in your family.
As always, if you have questions about your pet's behavior. You know where to find me.