Christmas is time for parties, celebrations and get-togethers for many people. For pets, it may mean tempting delicious and inviting aromas, delectable treats and foods in close proximity, new feet and personalities shuffling around the house and a new exciting challenge, the Christmas tree. Despite the possibly hectic pace of family and friends chatting, laughing, and moving around the feasting table, many pets may be ignored after the initial greetings and neck rubs. Pets can get lost in the shuffle during all this merriment however, it is very important that they do not fall victim to eating potentially dangerous or ill-inducing foods, possible injury or too much excitement which could result in both illness and injury. Here is how to ensure your pets remain comfortable, happy and protected from harm or illness.
When decorating the Christmas tree, be sure to place all your ornaments on a table out of the way of pets; cats love to roll balls around so those glass ornaments are particularly vulnerable. Put them in a box to store until you put them on the tree. Keep tinsel in a closed plastic bag until you need it. If your tree is small enough, consider placing it on a small table so that it off the floor and hopefully out of reach of cats or dogs. The temptation of a table top tree may wear off for a cat after an initial inspection. Keep glass ornaments away from the bottom of the tree where they may tempt a dog or cat to play with it. Use ornaments that are fabric, plastic or made of wood at the bottom instead. Try to keep light cords out of reach as well as pets tend to enjoy chewing these. Do not allow too much wire to pile up on the floor; bury it in the branches at the base of the tree if needed. If you have a real tree and place water in the base, lay a cloth (such as a tree skirt) over and around the water containment to avoid pets drinking from it.
When you expect a number of people to arrive in the same time frame, it is recommended you place your pet in a room where you can close the door. Keep your pet comfortable and occupied by putting the bed or blanket and a favorite toy in the room; if you have a clock-radio in the room, turn it on at a low level. Once most or all people have arrived, you can satisfy the pet's curiosity regarding the unfamiliar noises by briefly introducing the guests to your pet, then make the decision to allow the pet to stay out or return to the room depending on the anxiety of your pet. You may want to ask any of your guests or family members to distract your dog by taking him or her for a walk or by playing with the pet outside instead of banishing your pet to another room
When guests need a place to temporarily store their belongings such as purses, coats, umbrellas, etc. make sure this is in an area where the pet cannot access otherwise, they may suffer minor or major damage from chewing, shredding or eaten as a possible food treat! The insides of purses seem to fascinate pets, especially cats so protect your guests' possessions.
Do not permit cats or dogs to jump on the counter or rest on the counter edge as you are preparing food as this is unsanitary and poses a threat to cats that might snack on something that does not agree with them. To help with clean up and organization, place the items you need for food preparation such as seasonings, preparation utensils, serving dishes, etc. in an area in the kitchen where they are accessible and ready to use. Clean up the counters as you prepare so you do not have leftover peelings, plastic bags, wrappers, empty cans or sharp-edged lids, bottles, and so on. You will appreciate this later when it is time to clean up after dining and partying as it will be that much less to deal with! Be aware that chocolate, seasonings and certain vegetables and fruits such as onions, garlic, grapes (in any form, like raisins and currants) can be toxic to cats, and can make dogs ill or worse. Make sure when you are opening the oven door during baking that pets are not within touching distance. Their curiosity may get the best of them and although they may be repelled by the heat generated, don't allow them to be tempted. It may be best to banish them back to their safe haven during the food preparation time to avoid them getting underfoot and coming into contact with potential hazards.
If you believe that it cruel and unusual punishment to keep your pet isolated during the dining phase, away from any contact with humans and exciting revelry, if it is a dog, place the pet bed in its normal place or close by and make your dog lay down quietly; give him or her a few chew treats to keep busy while everyone is eating. Ask your guests to avoid stirring up unwanted tableside visits by refraining from offering food from the table. Cats will usually take care of themselves but if your cat is insistent on becoming a table decoration, place the cat back in isolation with his or her bed and the cat will more than likely fall asleep and not miss the action. Place a cover over a caged bird to reduce stress and distraction. A pet that eats rich, sauced-up and exotic foods not normally part of their diet can cause stomach upsets, diarrhea, lethargy and even situations that may require emergency veterinarian action such as dog bloat which is life threatening so be extra cautious to avoid pets indulging in these.
Pets are most often considered family members and totally dependent on their humans to care for them, feed them and protect them from harm. Wanting to include pets in the Christmas festivities is understandable and normal however, pets often do not know that these contain elements that can hurt them or make them ill. Keep your pet and everyone happy, comfortable and safe by following the pet's usual routine as much as possible. They will not judge you for not including them in activities reserved only for humans! They will however thoroughly appreciate your company and an occasional treat after the festivities have moved on. Be cautious, aware, and vigilant so that everyone can enjoy the festivities, including your pets.