So you'll be hosting holiday parties at your house, but what do you do to keep your pets safe during the festivities?
"If you own a young pet and plan to have a house full of guests, it is probably a better idea to confine the pet in a safe, out-of-the-way place rather than try to keep an eye on the pet throughout the party," says Susan Bulanda, a certified animal behavior consultant. "If your guests insist on letting the pet join, limit the time so that you or someone reliable can watch the pet while it socializes, then return the pet to the safe area. A little planning ahead will go a long way to keep pets safe."
"You want to make sure that your cats have a very safe retreat, maybe put them in another room because you don't want them to inadvertently escape when someone opens the door," concurs certified cat behavior consultant, Marilyn Krieger. "If your guests want to see the cats, they can visit the cats in the room where they're safely staying while the festivities proceed. Just be sure they don't let the cats out of the room." Krieger advises equipping your pet with a microchip, ID tags and licenses on your pets.
Holiday parties mean holiday decorations and those can be dangerous. Krieger points to fireplaces and candles. Using essential oils reportedly can cause liver damage in cats; for example pine and lavender are considered extremely dangerous. It's best to check with your veterinarian about essential oils.
Cats can get scared with all the changes going on around your home, so you want to maintain a regular schedule. Krieger suggests you watch your cats for signs of stress such as hiding all the time, over-grooming or urinating outside the box.
Don't allow your company to feed human food to your pets. Both Bulanda and Krieger agree that foods toxic to cats and dogs should not be within the reach of your pet(s). They are safest eating their own pet food.
Another concern is the plants you have in your house. Some, such as poinsettias, holly and mistletoe are poisonous. If any pieces fall on the floor, pick them up immediately before your pet can ingest them.
Krieger cautions owners to be aware of the dangers of Christmas decorations such as tinsel which can be ingested and cause an internal obstruction. If you have a live tree, the water it is in can be highly toxic to pets. If the tree is pine, it's toxic to cats. Christmas tree lights and glass ornaments can be dangerous because cats will jump up at something they see hanging. Consider taking the lower branches off the tree to avoid temptation.
The tree should be very sturdy and perhaps secured from the ceiling so if the cat jumps on it the tree won't come down. And don't put food gifts under the tree! Make sure electric cords are safely stored so that your pets can't chew them and get electrocuted or receive a shock. Be sure that all extension cords are grounded.
"The best thing a pet owner can do is be prepared," says Bulanda. "Each pet owner should know their pet's weaknesses and avoid putting the pet in a situation where the pet cannot resist the weakness. For example, if your dog or cat loves cheese, do not leave a tray of cheese in a location where the pet can steal some--or all--of the cheese. If your dog cannot control himself when people come to the door, confine the dog until everyone has arrived and settled down."
Darlene Arden, CABC, is an author, journalist, speaker, and teaches part of the Dog Training and Management Course at Kutztown Univeristy. You can visit the Certified Animal Behavior Consultant's website at: www.darlenearden.com.