If you know your cat does well on the road and during visits, plan ahead. Set up a “cat central” room in Grandma’s house with all the important kitty paraphernalia (litter pan, scratch post, etc.). Cats often require many days or even weeks to accept “new” pets, so for shorter visits, giving your visiting cat a private room away from the resident critters offers the best chance of a happy holiday.
10 TIPS FOR HOLIDAY PET VISITS
Many dogs love new places, though. Taking him along can save boarding costs. Besides, pets are part of the family, so we want to share our furry loves with relatives.
But when your King meets Grandma’s Sheba for the first time, how do you keep the fur from flying? How would you like a stranger sleeping in your bed, eating from your plate, or (ahem) using your toilet? Pet introductions can take days, weeks, or sometimes months to be successful, so don’t expect overnight miracles. Follow these 10 tips to keep the pets happy and safe, and stay on speaking terms with your relatives.
The Resident Pet “owns” the house and yard. Therefore, give him continued access to his territory.
Confine the Guest Pet in one room. Provide familiar bowls, beds, litter pans, and toys in the room where the owner sleeps. The owner scent helps keep the Guest Pet calm even when he’s alone, and confinement provides a familiar home base where he’s safe from the Resident Pet. Confining him behind a closed door also tells the Resident Pet that only part of her territory has been invaded. (This works for visiting kitties, too!)
Create good associations. Feed the pets on opposite sides of the closed door, or offer favorite toys or games. This helps each identify the other pet’s presence with “good stuff” and helps relieve tension.
Use baby gates. The see-through barrier allows the Guest Pet to be part of the gathering without trespassing on the Resident Pet’s turf. A baby gate also gives curious, friendly pets (especially dogs) a safe way to meet. Moveable baby gates can divide a hallway or stairs to segregate whole sections of the house when necessary.
Leash the guest dog. This keeps him under control around the resident pet. That’s especially important with a resident cat.
“Potty” dogs separately. Distract the Resident Dog with treats or a game out of sight when the Guest Dog must leave his room.
Supervise yard interactions. Once dogs experience friendly meetings through the door for a couple of days (no growls, or elevated fur—whines are okay), a nose-to-nose play meeting is possible. Be sure each dog’s owner is present.
Leash both dogs. Bring the Resident Dog out first because he “owns” the yard. Remove any toys, bones or other resources they might argue over.
Walk the leashed dogs parallel to each other on opposite sides of the yard, back and forth, slowly bringing them closer. Stop if you see tucked tail, growls, or fluffed fur—they aren’t ready to play. Play bows (“elevator butt” posture) buy the dogs a 5-10 minute off-leash game before separating them. Play time can be extended if they do well.
Don’t force interactions. When an adult kitty visits, she’ll be happy to stay in the room and wait for your visits. A resident cat also may simply disappear to a safe place in the house to avoid contact with strangers (human or furred).
It’s hard to predict first meetings. You don’t love everyone you meet—(especially weird Cousin Cylene!) so why should your pets be any different? If pets will only be together a few days, aim for management or tolerance. There will be time enough over future visits for pet-to-pet love to blossom.
Do you pet proof for the holidays? Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations are popular times to break out the holiday trimmings, not just in terms of munchies, but decorations, too. There ARE safe foods for cats and dogs, but dangers abound as well.
Holiday homes become pet playgrounds at this time of year. Cats like our new Trinity-Kitten delight in un-decking the halls and climbing the tree. Dogs like our Shadow-Pup want to eat decorations and baptize the tree. The result is a Christmas that’s anything but merry. Refer to these tips to keep your pets safe and your holiday happy.
Pet Proof Plants from Pets
Dogs and especially puppies chew nearly anything. Cats rarely eat plants, but they do claw them and then lick/groom away the residue. Beware of holiday floral arrangements that contain pet dangers. Lilies can cause kidney failure. Holly and live mistletoe cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and lethargy if ingested by your pet. Poinsettias are NOT deadly but can cause nausea and/or mild vomiting. Choose pet-safe plants and set them out of paw-reach. Or consider using silk or plastic holiday plants to make an equally showy statement without the poison potential. Check out this list of dangerous plants.
Pets & Fire Hazards Don’t Mix
Fireplaces offer extra warmth and atmosphere to holiday gatherings but can prompt singed whiskers or burned paws. Candles prove irresistible, especially for kittens who paw-test everything to see what it is, or meet it head on to sniff and explore. That’s not just painful for pets, it’s a fire hazard for your entire family, should Fluffy knock over the Menorah. Instead, electric candles are available for decorating purposes. I love the ones that we use! If you must have the real thing, ensure pets are safely out of the way and candles out of paw-reach. Be sure you secure the fireplace screen against curious pets, too. We hold our screen-curtain middle opening together with metal binder clips.
DANGER! Grapes are highly toxic and can quickly kill dogs.
Chocolate poses special dangers. Too much chocolate, which contains a stimulant called theobromine, can kill your pet. Keep holiday candy out of reach, in latched cupboards, to keep your canine glutton from over-indulging. Valentine’s Day is another time to keep pets safe.
Xylitol is used as a sweetener in many products, including gum, candy, baked goods and toothpaste. It can cause insulin release in most species, which can lead to liver failure. The increase in insulin leads to hypoglycemia (lowered sugar levels). Affected pets may vomit, act lethargic or uncoordinated and these signs may progress to seizures.
Macadamia nuts can cause weakness, depression, vomiting, tremors and hyperthermia in dogs. Signs usually appear within 12 hours of ingestion and can last approximately 12 to 48 hours. Almonds, pecans and walnuts have so much fat in them, they can cause diarrhea in dogs, or even lead to pancreatitis.
Grapes and raisins can cause kidney failure in dogs. Avocado can cause heart damage and death in pet birds.
Flavored aluminum foil, grease-smeared turkey strings, and cellophane candy wrappers can be dangerous to pets if swallowed—dogs and cats rarely unwrap treats before eating. Refer to this post on dealing with swallowed objects. Eating raw yeast bread dough also causes problems when the dough rises in the tummy.
Cats consider the tree a feline jungle gym with cat toys that swing, sparkle, and invite paw-pats and biting. Some dogs take “aim” at the tree just as they would your outside shrubs and baptize the greenery. Drinking from treated water in the base can poison pets. Eating tinsel and ornaments can prove deadly, and dogs often chew through electric chords with shocking results.
Smaller trees can be set on table tops, inside of baby playpens, or in a room protected by a baby gate. Situate breakable and dangerous decorations on the top of the tree out of reach of inquisitive pets.
Make the area around the tree unattractive to keep paws at bay. Clear plastic carpet protectors and place under the tree—nub side up. That makes cruising or lounging under the tree uncomfortable. The soft “tacky mats” available from home product stores designed to keep throw rugs from sliding around work well to keep small pets away because they dislike walking on sticky surfaces.
Use your pet’s smell sense to keep her away from the tree. Citrus scents are off-putting to cats so scatter orange or lemon peels (or potpourri) around the base of the tree. Vicks (menthol smell) also works as a good pet repellent. Dip cotton balls in the ointment and stick in the lower branches of your tree. They’ll look a bit like snow and blend in with the rest of the decorations.
Create a “pet safe” tree decorated with dog toys and catnip mice. Place these within paw reach on lower branches and reserve the off-limits decorations for the top of the tree.
Have you decked the halls yet with your howl-iday decor or a pet safe tree? What do the pets think? Have they joined in the spirit of ho-ho-ho and wreaked havoc? Or do they ignore the festivities? ‘Tis the season to share this annual advice. Here’s how to protect your Christmas tree, and the pets.
The Christmas tree might as well be an early holiday gift to your cats and dogs. You need indoor Christmas trees safe for pets and pet-proof the holidays. Cats and dogs can’t resist the urge to sniff, claw, water—and scale the branches to reach the highest possible perch. Don’t blame your cat or dog. It’s normal for cats to compete for the top spot (literally and figuratively) to secure their place in kitty society, and dogs may want to “mark” the convenient indoor doggy signpost.
CLUELESS PUPS & ACROBAT CATS
Magical-Dawg was born in July, and he came to live with us in early October. So when it came time to put up that year’s tree, I weenied out. We didn’t put up a tree until he was three years old and had sorta-kinda-in-a-way learned to control himself. I already had practice from dealing with the Seren-kitty’s tree love affair.
For puppies, the Christmas season can be a challenge for owners. Your puppy may believe the Christmas tree is a special gift just for his entertainment. The attraction is natural, with puppies wanting to chew branches, pull off decorations, or worse. The result is a holiday that’s anything but merry.
Youngsters won’t care about social standing, but high energy kitten play turns the holiday tree into a jungle gym. Tree encounters of the furry kind not only risk breaking your heirloom ornaments, your pets get injured by chewing or swallowing dangerous items.
Puppies turn everything into a toy. The branches beneath the tree create a great puppy hideout. Tree ornaments that move or make noises lure puppies to grab and chase, garland offers a great game of tug-o’-war, and the twinkling lights draw them to investigate or even chew. That can lead to electrical shock (check out The First-Aid Companion for Dogs & Cats for tips that can save your pets’ lives). Trees end up toppled, presents and decorations damaged, and sometimes pets get hurt.
Holidays mean memories and damage to “things” may matter more at this time of year than others. My grandmother always displayed a gorgeous white porcelain nativity each year. That nativity symbolized for me all-good-things about Grandma’s house and Christmas–good food, happy reunions, presents, and love shared by our close-nit family. So when Grandma died, I felt blessed to keep her Nativity and continue to display it in my own home.
When Seren-kitty arrived, I was nervous about her rambunctious behavior around the Holy Family. You can read about that in this Christmas Sparkles story. But it wasn’t until later that the worst happened while my husband played his nightly fetch game with Magical-Dawg. It could have been me, so there’s no blame here. The ball ricocheted off of the delicate nativity and beheaded Joseph and lopped off Mary’s hand. Sounds funny, right?
I had a meltdown. You probably could hear my scream for miles and the sobs lasted days. It wasn’t just china, a THING damaged. It was my personal Christmas, my Grandma, childhood happy times–shattered.
Fully restored…and now placed out of reach on the mantel.
Eventually, I stopped crying. There was no question of replacing the pieces–they’re hard to find and besides, it was THAT nativity that meant everything to me. We eventually found a restoration expert able to give Mary back her hand and re-attach Joseph’s head. I’m just grateful Grandma’s Nativity continues to be a part of our personal traditions and holiday happiness.
Since that time, we’ve curtailed pet games of fetch, especially around the holidays delicate decorations. Hey, it wasn’t the dog’s fault. But it’s up to us humans to protect what’s important to us–not just our pets but our memories.
HOW TO PET PROOF THE TREE
Place “tacky mats” under the tree to shoo away pets. We can find these at pet products stores used to keep throw rugs from slipping, and pets don’t like to walk on the sticky surface. Alternatively, get some Sticky Paws (double-sided tap) and apply to place mats or other moveable surfaces and place in strategic locations.
Put small trees inside a baby playpen to keep small pets out. Or use baby gates to keep the pets out of the tree room. Keep breakable or dangerous ornaments out of paw-reach (or better, don’t use at all!). Put only pet safe décor within sniffing range on lower branches.
Ditch the lights, and any “fake-snow” flocking that pets might chew or swallow. Instead, decorate with cotton balls or pillow-stuffing fleece for that snowy look on branches or around the base. If you’ve chosen a real tree, water with plain water and no additives in case the pet drinks from the container.
Strings and garland look great on the tree, but prove deadly inside a cat or dog when swallowed. Dried flowers like baby’s breath look lovely and are nontoxic even if clueless pets nibble.
CREATE A PET-SAFE TREE!
Rather than fight a losing battle to keep them at bay, create a second pet-safe tree with these tips. That way the fur-kids can enjoy the holidays as much as you do.
Put yourself in your pet’s “paws.” Satisfy her desire to claw, lounge on (or under) the branches, and trust that it won’t tip over under her assault. Match the tree size, sturdiness, base (perhaps add guy-wires for steadiness) to the activity level and number of pets.
To increase the fun factor, insert a few sprigs of dried catnip—but be prepared for the cats to dismantle the tree! Offer some doggy treats under the pet tree for legal dog chewing enjoyment.
Catnip toys make great kitty tree decorations pets won’t destroy during feline assaults. Use “orphan” socks (singletons without a mate), fill with the ‘nip, and knot the open end.
Don’t forget the “cheap thrills.” Empty boxes, wads of holiday paper, and even paper shopping bags thrill cats and dogs. Remove bag handles so it won’t get hung around her neck.
Toss a few special treats in the boxes or bags. The smellier the treat, the better pets like them.
Be prepared to re-decorate the tree after the cats and dogs have fun. But a “Pet-mas” tree not only answers your pets’ Santa Paws prayers, it means she’ll be more likely to leave your formal tree and decorations alone. That promotes a merry Christmas for the whole family, furry and otherwise.
So how do you handle doggy interest in your yule plans? Are your puppies ho-hum or holiday happy over the change in scenery? What do you do to keep your Christmas memories safe from kitty and doggy damage? Does the baby-gate-of-despair keep the tree and poochie free from harm? Have you ever “lost your head” over holiday damage? Do tell!