Keeping your pets safe and happy at Christmas – Part Two
Welcome to part two of our festive blog, looking at how you can keep your pets safe and happy during the festive period. Last week we looked at physical wellbeing, including food and drink that pets should never have, along with non-edible Christmas hazards including decorations and candles that can cause problems for cats and dogs. We also talked about giving your guests some ground rules when it comes to sharing food or handing out treats.
This week we’re looking at how to protect both you and your pet’s mental and emotional wellbeing during what can be a very stressful time. Many pets can find the holiday season overwhelming, due to the sudden changes in their environment. With decorations, guests, and a myriad of new stimuli, it's essential for pet owners to take proactive steps to ensure that they remain calm and stress-free during this festive time. Which is why this week, we're taking a look at some practical tips to help your cats and dogs navigate the holiday season smoothly, along with some activities that you can do to enjoy your time together and perhaps improve the lives of less fortunate animals too.
Weimaraner photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels
Creating a calm environment
- Designate a quiet space: If you have a lot of guests coming and going or staying over, carol singers knocking on the door, and perhaps even a Christmas party of gathering at home, it is important that your pet feels safe in their space. Establish a designated quiet area that they can retreat to when the festivities become too much. Equip this space with their bed, toys, and familiar items to provide a sense of security.
- Maintain routine: Try to maintain a consistent daily routine for your pets. Regular feeding times, walks, and play sessions can anchor them amidst the holiday chaos. Make sure you prioritise their wellbeing and don’t put them last on our list of festive to-dos.
- Introduction to decorations: If your dog or cat is nervous, make a point of gradually introducing them to your Christmas decorations, allowing them to get accustomed to new sights and sounds. This can prevent anxiety associated with sudden changes in their environment. Also think about where you might be placing decorations outside – a six foot inflatable light-up snow man might look great but it could terrify your cat so try and make sure it’s not blocking one of their favourite routes or making them scared to go outside.
- Be mindful of noise: Always think about how your activities might impact your pet. If your dog is terrified of fireworks, the chances are they might be afraid of party poppers and Christmas crackers too, Make sure they are safe in their quiet space and not close by if you plan on letting anything off!
- Pet-friendly décor: As discussed last week, Christmas decorations can be pretty hazardous to your pets health, so where possible opt for pet-friendly ones. Avoid using decor that could be harmful if ingested and secure items like tinsel and electrical cords out of reach.
- Keep them calm: If your dogs get overly excited and jump up when guests arrive, try using a Lickimat or Kong to distract them, Fill a Kong with treats or spread some pate or cream cheese onto a Lickimat and place it on the floor, this will not only distract them but also calm them down due to the soothing action of the licking.
Winter dog walk photo by Boris Pavlikovsky on Pexels
Spending quality time with your pets
Of course, it’s not all party, party, party! Most of us will have the week between Christmas and New Year off, giving us time to snuggle at home with our cats or go on some long wintery walks with our dogs. Schedule some quality time with your pet and plan to do some things together.
Cats and dogs often enjoy watching films that have animals in, so why not settle down for a movie marathon? Here are our recommendations for some live-action family friendly animal films to watch together:
- Beethoven (1992)
- Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey (1993)
- Lassie Come Home (1943)
Best in Show (2000)
- Marley and Me (2008)
- Cats and Dogs (2001)
Hotel for Dogs (2009)
- The Cat from Outer Space (1978)
- The Jungle Book (2016)
- Lady and the Tramp (2019)
You could also prepare some pet-friendly snacks, for them to enjoy during your movie-watching experience. Just be cautious about sharing – check that your treats are safe for pets. Dogs can eat popcorn as long as it is plain (no salt or sugar), ideally air-popped and offered in moderation.
Black and White cat photo by Susanne Jutzeler, suju-foto on Pexels
Supporting less fortunate pets
Christmas is of course, also a time for giving and whilst you’re snuggling with your pets, take a moment to show some gratitude and consider how fortunate you are to be able to share these moments together. As you can tell from all the reasons given in this blog, unless you’re having a very quiet one with no decorations, Christmas is a really bad time to introduce a pet to your home, and giving a cat or a dog as a gift is also a really bad idea – particularly if the recipient is not expecting it or is unprepared to take on responsibility for an animal which could be with them for the next 15 or 20 years. You could however buy them all the equipment that they need for a pet (including some items from the Gravitis shop) and then adopt from a shelter in the new year, once all the decorations are down and life has returned to normal.
If you’re not planning on getting another pet any time soon, here are some other ways you can share the Christmas spirit by supporting animals less fortunate than your own:
Sponsor an animal
Consider sponsoring an animal in need by donating to reputable organizations. Many shelters and rescue groups offer sponsorship programs that help cover the costs of veterinary care, food, and shelter for homeless pets including those which are unable to be rehomed.
Here are a few of our favourites:
- Battersea Dogs and Cats home offers the opportunity to sponsor a dog kennel or cat cabin, along with other funding options
- The WWF offers the chance to ‘adopt’ an animal with regular updates and a cuddly toy. They have a range of exciting exotic animals including penguins, elephants and jaguars to choose from and the subscriptions make excellent gifts.
- The RSPCA also offers the opportunity to sponsor a dog kennel, a cat pod or both
- The Cats Protection League offers a chance to sponsor a specific cat from as little as £1.38 per week
- The Dogs Trust also has a sponsor a dog scheme with gift options.
Donate to an animal shelter
Pet sponsorship and adoption programs are large well-organised schemes that make a huge difference to animals all over the globe, but you might also want to consider contributing on a smaller scale, to a local shelter that needs basic items including pet food, blankets, old newspapers, towels, or toys as well as money. You could also give up some of your time by volunteering a few hours a week to help care for the animals. Try googling ‘animal shelters near me’ to see what is out there. Larger organisations including Cats Protection, RSPCA, Blue Cross and Dogs Trust tend to have local branches – and there are plenty of deserving independent shelters out there too.
Always call the shelter first to see what they need, it could be a specific type of food or an extra pair of hands. You could make this kind of regular support one of your new years’ resolutions.
Shaggy dog photo by Elina Fairytale on Pexels
As we revel in the holiday season, let's not forget our beloved companions who may need a little extra care and attention. By creating a calm environment, enjoying pet-friendly entertainment, and giving back to less fortunate pets, you can ensure that your pets (and hopefully you too!) have a stress-free and joyous holiday season.
Wishing you all the best from Gravitis Pet Supplies – a Very Merry Christmas and a Happy and Prosperous New Year! See you in 2024 😊
Main photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels