Christmas is a joyous time.  Families and friends get together, laughing, drinking, eating, and generally having huge amounts of fun. Aunty Maud, slightly the worse for putting away most of the Baileys, snoring gently in the winged-back armchair, paper hat slightly askew, Nora Batty stockings wrinkling around her ankles; Uncle Bert laughing loudly as he farts frequently, blaming the dog; children alternating between crying ‘he’s got my….. ‘(fill in the gap) and laughing as they paint eyebrows on Grandad’s face with Mum’s new lipstick. Where do our pets fit into this picture?

As with bonfire night, it can be a terrifying experience for kittens and cats.  Lots of unfamiliar people milling around, legs to negotiate, loud noises (and I’m not just referring to Uncle Bert’s emissions) and a whole minefield of potentially dangerous things to navigate.

Let’s start with the Christmas tree.  Whether you like a traditional fir/pine tree or an artificial one, what you put on the tree can be hazardous to our pets. Tinsel – could be swallowed; baubles can shatter, and chocolate treats hung on the branches is an open invitation for a naughty dog.  Trees tend to drop their needles which can become embedded in paws causing a lot of pain and distress.  Dogs should be discouraged from drinking the water the tree is standing in. And all trees are there to be climbed, whether the real McCoy or the artificial one.  So, make sure your tree is positioned where, if it does fall over, it won’t cause damage to other things, or if you have an open fire, that it can’t fall into it.

People often fill their homes with Christmas lilies and Poinsettias and other beautiful plants and flowers, but they are all highly toxic to cats.  Any part of a lily could be lethal to a cat; if the pollen gets on his coat and he then licks himself clean, within a very short space of time, he will become very ill and without immediate veterinary treatment, could die.

It’s tempting to give our pets table treats.  If we’re enjoying ourselves, we want them to, as well. A little bit of cooked turkey, or meat won’t hurt but I do mean a little bit – not a wing or a leg!  And don’t give anything with bones in.  Anything else is strictly off limits; onions, garlic, grapes to name a few, are poisonous to dogs and cats and do not even think of giving them chocolate.  There are chemicals in chocolate which are very dangerous and could cause serious illness. You can buy special cat and dog chocolates for them which are quite nice (I accidentally ate some!) for their stockings.

Our pets don’t feel left out; it’s our perception that we’re leaving them out of the family festivities.  But once all the eating has been done (by the humans) and things quieten down, then you can play games with your kittens, cat, or dog.  I’m sure everyone would benefit from a good walk after lunch so take Rover out for a fun run in the woods. When you’re back home again, you can all settle down for an afternoon siesta.

If you’re having a houseful of people over Christmas and Boxing Day and you’ve only had your kittens or cat a short while, I would suggest that you set aside a quiet room where they’ll be able to curl up in their own beds, relax and sleep.  Make sure they’ve got a litter tray, toys, food and water bowls (not placed too near the litter tray) and tell everyone that that particular room is strictly off limits as you don’t want them to get out, especially if they haven’t met your relatives before!  

It goes without saying, hopefully, that pets should never be given as presents at Christmas time as they need a quiet period to adjust to their new surroundings. And many people, once the bills come in after Christmas, find they cannot afford to have Rover or little Fluffy after all and they’re often dumped, needlessly.

Follow these few paragraphs of advice and your Christmas will be awesome.  Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year to you all.  

Dogs Come when Called

"Dogs come when called. Cats take a message and get back to you."

"Of course, every cat is really the most beautiful woman in the room."

Edward Verrall Luca (essayist)

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