If you’ve got pets, chances are you’ll want to include them in your family’s celebrations this Christmas.
In your head you’ve probably imagined the dog looking cute in antlers, behaving impeccably around your guests possibly even handing round cans from a tray on his back.
Sadly, in reality, Fido’s so wound up with all the excitement that he’s torn down the Christmas tree, choked on a turkey bone (and yes, many pet insurance policies will cover injuries caused by a pet even if it is suffering from festive over excitement!) and thrown up all over Granddad’s new slippers before the double episode of EastEnders has even begun.
But there is a way pet owners can enjoy a stress-free Christmas (and no, it’s not by sending them to kennels and forgetting to pick them up until the New Year). Follow our handy guide to make sure your furry friends have a happy Yuletide too.
1. Stick to their routine
Although you may be busy opening presents or cooking the turkey, make sure your pet sticks to the same routine. Get someone to feed the cat at its usual time, and don’t forget to give the dog his normal walks. It’ll give you a chance to get some fresh air, too.
2. Keep them calm
If you’re having a party, make sure there’s a quiet place available for your pet to relax in, well away from the mad auntie who insists on cuddling the cat after she’s had one too many sherries. If you have a dog, it’s a good idea to keep him contained there before everyone arrives. Then when he’s calm, you can release him to meet your guests, this should stop him jumping up and frightening any young children.
3. Don’t let them indulge
Although your dog and cat may have their starving animal look down to such an art it’s as if they’ve studied at the Italia Conti school for talented pets, avoid giving them table scraps at Christmas no matter how much they beg. Food at this time of year can be a lot richer than they’re used to and things like poultry skin, rich sauces and gravy can all cause vomiting, diarrhoea or, in severe cases, inflammation of the pancreas. Turkey and chicken bones are particularly brittle and can splinter, lodging in your pet’s mouth, throat or intestines. Make sure your pet stays away from alcohol, chocolate and nuts too or you’ll have a much bigger clean-up operation on your hands than just the normal mountain of washing-up.
4. Watch the decorations
Make sure you think about your pet while you’re decking the halls. Cats love playing with shiny baubles, so put them out of reach of curious paws. Secure your tree to the wall to stop it from falling and squashing your pet cat. Pine needles can irritate animals mouths, so hoover them up regularly. And make sure your dog can’t get to any of your Christmas plants. Mistletoe, ivy, holly, poinsettia and even pot pourri can make them throw up faster than you can turn over the telly when The Sound Of Music comes on.
5. Include them
The Blue Cross is encouraging pet owners to include their furry friend in all the Christmas festivities. The charity suggests you give your cat a box filled with ripped up wrapping paper and a couple of hidden treats to keep it entertained. Or, if you have a dog, train them to do a trick to show everyone on Christmas day. While you’re in the training mood, it may be a good time to reinforce the leave it or drop it command so you’ll be able to rescue that chocolate liqueur from your dog’s jaws, before he actually swallows it.