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How to survive Christmas with your pets

Just imagine you are a pet. Christmas is a strange time. Humans eat different food in sizes that would keep you going for weeks. They bring strangers into your home who make a lot of noise. They get a tree that you know belongs outside – and they bring it into your home. They then humiliate it by hanging gaudy-coloured balls off it that you’re not even allowed to play with!

Here are some tips from PDSA to help make Christmas less stressful and hazardous for your pets:

Create a Christmas pet den

  • Minimise their stress by making a quiet, cosy ‘den’ in advance. 
  • For dogs, put it behind a sofa in a quiet room. 
  • For cats, put it securely on a shelf or chest of drawers: they often feel safest when high up. 
  • Encourage them to go into their den. Give them healthy treats and praise when they’re relaxed in the den. They will learn to view it as a pleasurable, calm place, where they can escape all the bustle and noise. 
  • Don’t disturb pets who have taken themselves away for some quiet time.
  • Place a pheromone diffuser nearby. This will emit calming scents which only pets can smell. 

Coping with Christmas decorations

A Christmas tree is a playground full of temptations – shiny decorations and flashing lights. But pets can injure themselves as they explore, so here are some ideas:

  • Supervise your pet in rooms containing trees and presents: keep an eye on them as you would a young child.
  • Keep doors closed when you’re not around.
  • Distract them by allocating some ‘pet playtime’ with suitable toys. 
  • Take dogs out for a good run around. 
  • Play with your cat using fishing rod-type toys. 
  • Remove wrappings, wires as well as toys and batteries after opening. They may cause choking as pets often explore new items with their mouths. Batteries can also cause internal burns if they are swallowed and start leaking. 

Kitchen hazards at Christmas

Keep kitchen doors closed so pets can’t get under your feet. With a big Christmas dinner on the go, full of hot ovens and boiling pots and pans, kitchens are more hazardous places than usual.

Keep Christmas food out of the way of pets.

Whilst you snooze, they cruise. They’ll sniff out extra treats, but whilst you may feel relaxed about it, as it’s Christmas after all, they can be hazardous. Feeding human food leads to pet obesity. Pets can also choke on turkey bones. Onions, raisins and certain nuts can even be poisonous. Sage and onion stuffing, Christmas cake, chocolate and mince pies are also toxic.

Car journeys

We all buckle up when we travel, so should our pets. It’s for their safety and yours. Unrestrained pets can be distracting when you drive and they can be seriously injured if you are involved in an accident. So if you’re taking your pets with you when visiting friends and relatives this Christmas, make sure you use pet seat-belts and harnesses for larger pets, and secured pet carriers for smaller pets.

It is important to note that pet restraints are not crash-tested and may not prevent your pet from being injured or injuring you if you are involved in a serious accident. There are a small number of products available that are crash tested and will keep you and your pets safe in a collision.

Pet first aid in the festive season

Knowing what to do in any emergency can mean the difference between life and death for our pets. Over the festive season it’s more important than ever to make sure you are well prepared in case your pet suffers an accident or injury.

Take a look at the First Aid section on the website or download the PDSA First Aid leaflet.

It’s Christmas for your small pets too...

Don’t forget about smaller pets either, e.g. rats, rabbits, guinea pigs and ferrets. Let them join in the festivities: offer them some of their favourite food wrapped in brown paper. Figuring out how to get to the food is a great challenge to occupy their inquisitive minds. Using interactive games and puzzle feeders helps animal wellbeing and prevents boredom. This is called ‘environmental enrichment’ – a term often associated with zoos – but it’s equally important for our pets.

Small pets need special care in winter, even on Christmas Day. They are more likely to feel drops in temperature because of their size, so follow these rules:

  • House guinea pigs and rabbits indoors in winter. A warm shed or a car-free garage is ideal, but they should still have access to natural light and an exercise run.
  • Give them extra bedding in the hutch to help keep them warm.
  • Put a thick blanket or piece of carpet over the hutch to help keep it warm. Make sure this doesn’t obstruct the ventilation.
  • Check water bottles every day to make sure they aren’t frozen.
  • If you have to move the hutch in to your home, make sure it’s kept away from other pets, stressful noises and smoky atmospheres.