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Avoid pet disasters at Christmas

When the Christmas season is upon us the demands on our time and energy are invariably overwhelming. Alas, we don’t have eyes in the back of our heads or multiple hands. Unfortunately for us, that cute puppy or kitten purchased in the summer is now in the full throes of adolescence. Like all teenagers they just want to have fun and explore new stuff. Christmas is an Aladdin’s cave of pet-fun opportunity and it is easy for things to go wrong, ruining family time and resulting in costly vet bills. Here is a quickie checklist, to remind ourselves how to keep our furry friends safe over the holiday.

Christmas trees and ornaments 

All that glitters, dingles and dangles is an open invitation for cats and young dogs to have their own kind of festive fun with your tree and its adornments. Cats can access trees from all sorts of cunning vantage points- and the desire to leap, capture and kill  enticing glass ornaments, lights, flexes, and even candles, can be overpowering. Broken ornament shards are obviously dangerous and pets have been burned by chewing through flexes. Even pine needles are toxic. Site your tree carefully. Put foil or a little cage around the edge to limit access. Shut unsupervised pets out of the room, especially at night.

The presents

A few years ago my own dog ended up at the emergency vet because in the one moment I was distracted and left the room, he immediately sniffed out and ‘opened’ one of the gifts I had left under my tree. It was from a relative and I did not know the contents contained a full pack of ‘quality’ drinking chocolate (meaning very high cocoa content). Delighted, my pooch snaffled the lot, leaving me with a ruined carpet and hefty vet bill. Cocoa is highly toxic and even fatal for dogs. Be careful with all your presents. All that rustling paper and glittery ribbon is enticing for dogs and cats alike. If ingested a vet emergency is certain. Plus, if your pup gets to the presents before your kids do, there’ll be tears on Christmas day!

Dangerous plants

Holly, Ivy, mistletoe, and many types of favourite festive foliage are toxic, both to cats and dogs. Pups in particular love to investigate new things. A typical puppy-style investigation involves, sniffing, shredding and often, for a full analysis, ingestion!

Dangerous foods

Much of the stuff we love to eat will get our pets salivating away too. But a lot of the things we love are toxic for them; mincemeat, Christmas pudding, fruits like grapes and especially dried fruit, onion, garlic, anything with artificial sweetener, chocolate, myriad cakes and puddings, many nuts, alcohol…the list is endless. Unless your dog has an impeccable ‘leave’ and ‘stay’ (when you go out of sight) ensure he cannot access food. Cats are a law unto themselves but supervision or no access is vital.

Crate train, tether, or separate

For young dogs and greedy dogs, crate training or puppy pens are a great way to limit access when full supervision is not possible. Give your pet wholesome chews to keep him happy when penned. Present opening and the big Christmas meal are times to keep your pet under control.

Adequate play and exercise

So much is going on at Christmas that it is easy to forget the exercise and play requirements of your pets. Don’t just make it the big postprandial family walk. Take time out to do some indoors training and play with your dog, this way he’ll settle. Puss also needs some fun. Flirt poles are a great way to play with cats, give her something legitimate to hunt and ‘kill’; that way she’s less likely to go after the baubles.

Leonie St Clair |