The holiday season is a busy time in every household. Friends and relatives come and go, the kids are home from school and college and often there are parties to plan too. Whether you embrace the festivities, or run screaming from an army of relatives who invade your peaceful home, remember that the holidays pose special risks to your pets.
By paying attention to a few basic safety precautions, you can keep your canine and feline companions out of harm’s way and have a safe and happy holiday season.
Decorating for the Howlidays
When it comes to putting up Christmas tree lights and other lighting decorations, always look for the shortest route to the plug point and avoid leaving excess wiring lying on the floor. Chewing cords can be life threatening to both dogs and cats. There are special cord covers infused with bitter aloe that will further prevent them from chewing.
Also it's a great idea to sprinkle pepper on the lower branches of the tree. This will end any ideas your cat may have of trying to climb it! Further, if you have an inquisitive dog, put glass ornaments and tinsel at a height level she can’t reach when standing.
Candles always add a fabulous festive touch but are a huge fire hazard as they can easily be knocked over with a wagging tail or pulled from a table if your cat gets hold of the tablecloth. Err on the side of caution and invest in flameless candles. Luckily, there is a huge array to choose from.
Holiday Plants From Mistletoe to Poinsettias
Nothing is more festive than decking the halls, but remember that both holly and mistletoe are toxic to pets and can cause acute stomach and intestinal irritation, cardiovascular collapse, and death. Despite the myths, the ever-popular Christmas poinsettias are considered safe for pets. Even so, try to keep them away from both pets and children because the milky sap can cause skin allergies and has a terrible bitter taste.
Party Time and Festive Feasts
The holiday season is synonymous with family feasts—huge stuffed turkeys, corn on the cob and tempting desserts. Never feed you're your pets turkey bones (or any other bones from the table). Bones are a choking hazard and so are corncobs. So when you clear the table deal with anything left on plates immediately by tossing in the trash.
Also, when putting away the leftovers, be careful your dog doesn’t get a hold of anything wrapped in aluminum foil. If eaten, foil can cut a dog's intestines, causing internal bleeding, and, in some cases, even death. Plastic wrap is equally dangerous and can cause choking or intestinal obstructions.
The moniker “drink responsibly” also applies to taking care of your dog. Alcoholic beverages can be poisonous to pets, so never leave drinks unattended. If your pooch consumes them, she could become very intoxicated and weak, depressed, or even go into a coma. In severe cases, death from respiratory failure can also occur.
If you are planning a huge party that involves caterers and furniture being delivered, be sure to secure your pets in one area of your home during set-up. This is one time doors will be left open and there is too much activity to monitor them carefully.
And on the day of the event, remember not all pets enjoy raucous laughter, loud music and hectic activity. Be sure to bring out your ThunderShirts for both your dogs and cats and put them on even if you are going to secure them in another part of the house.
Finally, if you plan to travel during the season and are unable to take your pals with you, don’t leave them alone at home with a stocked-up food bowl. Make arrangements with a pet sitter or check him into a pet hotel. Once again, make sure ID tag information is current.
Take it away Sandy!
There’s good reason why dogs are dubbed “man’s best friend”; they love and thrive on companionship and especially enjoy the company of their favorite people.
That’s why there is always a sad look when you go out the door in the morning, leaving them home alone for a large part of their day.
To this end, behaviorists often recommend getting a pal for your pet so that they have each other for company. Getting a dog walker to come in will give some focus to your pooch’s day too and so will arranging for him to go to doggy daycare. But often such alternatives aren’t always feasible for a variety of reasons including financial considerations.
Pets left on their own can get very lonely and bored. Some even suffer from separation anxiety and stress. All this leads to a variety of behavior issues such as excessive and continual barking and clawing -- the latter often being to the detriment of the front door!
Chewing is another behavior, which can result from stress and anxiety as well as boredom. Often it’s not specific to that new chew toy you just purchased but directed at furniture such as the leg of the dining room table, with the dining chairs earmarked to be tackled next! Not to mention personal effects such as clothing, socks and shoes and even the iPad that may inadvertently have been left lying around.
If you had a video cam set up, you would probably also see your dog also anxiously pacing up and down, and trembling while looking hopefully out of the window and, possibly, even eliminating on your favorite rug. And he could even start self-mutilating himself by pulling out chunks of fur and chewing himself raw in places.
It’s really important for pet parents to understand that none of these behaviors are out of defiance or naughtiness. It all comes back to boredom, loneliness and stress.
If you can’t change his environment, the answer to relieving stress and anxiety could a simple as getting him a ThunderShirt to wear while home alone.
The ThunderShirt already has a proven record dealing with weather-related issues and loud noises that scare pets such as fireworks. And, the swaddling principle upon which it is based, works very well to relieve symptoms of stress and anxiety in the home environment too.
The new ThunderSpray available for both dogs and cats also has a calming effect by mimicking a canine or feline mother’s natural pheromones and also contains lavender and chamomile, which are natural calming agents. It’s a good idea to use in conjunction with the shirt by simply spraying a single burst on the neck of the shirt. It can also be used to spray inside a crate or on a dog bed (as well as in a car). The calming pheromones and fragrances will continue to release for an extended period and the liquid will dry stain-free.
Very often stress and anxiety is exacerbated by loneliness and boredom. It's a great idea to take your dog for a really long walk in the mornings before you go off to work, so that when you do leave for the day, he’s been tired out and will be only too happy to snooze for part of the time he is home alone. But it’s equally important to see that you ensure he has toys apart from just a chew toys to keep him engaged. He may like a nice comfort toy to carry around the house and sleep with too.
There are wonderful dog puzzles available in different degrees of difficulty. It's a really good idea to use them as a feeder instead of leaving food in a regular bowl. This way your dog will have to work for his meal and, doing so, this is a great way to occupy his time. The ThunderToy is a stuffable chew toy that can be filled with food, or yummy treats such as ThunderTreats, which fit perfectly into the toy. This is a great combo to further help calm and distract stressed or anxious dogs.
Leaving a TV on with a channel such as Animal Planet is something a lot of pets enjoy. Even a channel featuring soapies such as The Bold and the Beautiful and General Hospital will work because of the different voices that keep the drama going on screen and help to avoid it at home.
I have always been “blessed” with cats that sing in the car. But Ziggy out sings every cat I’ve ever known.
When we took him home from the animal shelter, I put his vocals down to nerves.
Not long after, we had to take him to the vet for his kitty shots. The moment we placed him in his carrier, the singing began.
It started off with a tentative operatic dolcissimo (very sweet) “mew”. Followed by a second and then a third. As we turned the corner he started scratching on the side of the carrier and the mew got more espressivo (insistent). Then he tried a new tactic and the mews got doloroso (sad and mournful). From his perspective, he probably thought I wasn’t listening so he began to get more insistenta (insistent) until his vocals turned fortissimo (very loud).
On the way home, it was a repeat performance. He wasn’t being naughty; he was really just stressed and anxious. Who knows what experiences he had an in a car before we adopted him.
A few weeks later we were off to the vet again for follow-up shots. And soon Ziggy was singing the same aria. The next week, when it was time for his rabies shot courtesy of the animal shelter, we were back in the car and Ziggy was singing again.
What was so interesting was the fact that it sounded like the same song.
Cats in fact have quite a large vocabulary. Author and naturalist Jean Craighead George who writes about the language cats have in her award-winning book The Cats of Roxville Station and has studied cats in nature, says that the different ways in which a cat meows has a special idiosyncratic meaning. She has categorized some feline vocalizations as follows. They are written phonetically to emphasize the different sound and tones:
- Mew (high pitched and thin) - a polite plea for help
- MEW! (loud and frantic) - an urgent plea for help
- Mew - plea for attention
- Meow - emphatic plea for attention
- MEOW! - a command!
- Mee-o-ow (with falling cadence) - protest or whine
- MEE-o-ow (shrill whine) - stronger protest
- MYUP! (short, sharp, single note) - righteous indignation
- MEOW! Meow! (repeated) - panicky call for help
- Mier-r-r-ow (chirrup with lilting cadence) - friendly greeting
Soon I worked out that Ziggy had composed a feline “song”:
Here are his lyrics:
Second verse same as the first.
So I decided to translate. It goes something like this:
Hello… Helloow …
What’s happening here?
This isn’t fair
You scooped me out of my favorite chair
I was a sleep
What did you think --I wouldn’t make a peep?
What’s happening now?
The vet!! Oh No!
I don’t want to go
I’m prodded and given a shot
It calls for a total boycott
Take me home….
Finally I couldn’t take it anymore. There are always going to be vet visits for one reason or another. So I decided he was the perfect candidate for a feline ThunderShirt.
I decided the best way to test the shirt was the take him one way to the vet without it and put it on for the journey home.
I chose a fairly innocuous vet visit, namely, he was simply going for a Mani-Pedi. No needles or prodding involved. I even took Fudge along in the hope that seeing how she behaved would perhaps help him remain calm.
No such luck. The outward-bound trip was typical – very vocal with Fudge simply staring at him in disbelief that a cat could make so much noise. So just before we popped him back in his carrier, I put him in a ThunderShirt. I reckoned he wasn’t going to have to walk around wearing it so he didn’t need to get used to it from that standpoint.
On with the shirt, into the carrier and off we went home. It’s a 15-minute drive. And I must say Fudge and I enjoyed it immensely -- in total silence! I don’t say he enjoyed the ride, but he didn’t seem stressed and anxious to get out of the carrier, as was his typical modus operandi.
I was amazed how it worked instantly. But apart from keeping him calm, it helped me to drive home fully concentrating on the road and not worrying about my feline passenger.
When we got home, I took off the shirt and placed in his carrier, ready to go for next time.
Sandy Robins is an award-winning author and pet lifestyle expert.
Follow her on Facebook here: http://www.Facebook.com/SandyRobinsPetLifestyleExpert
We asked our friend, award-winning author and respected Pet Lifestyle Expert, Sandy Robins to share her best advice for traveling this summer with cats... Take it away, Sandy!
With the travel season around the corner, if you are planning a vacation, now is the time to make arrangements for your pets.
When it comes to cats, most felines are homebodies and don’t really like a change in their domestic situation. So unless you have a reliable family member, friend or licensed pet sitter who can move in and keep them company, or you are comfortable checking them into a pet hotel, its important to make proper plans for them to travel with you too.
When making travel arrangements for feline family members, it’s a good idea to purchase a second carrier so that your cat can differentiate between vacation travel and trips to the vet. Purchase the carrier at least a month in the advance and leave it lying around the house for her to discover on her own. Cats like to be in charge of their territory!
If you are traveling by plane, be sure that the carrier meets your airline’s in-cabin specifications. And, further, be sure to make a reservation. Only a certain number of pets are allowed on each flight and you don’t want to arrive to discover that they have filled the pet quota for your flight.
Even if your feline has sniffed out her carrier, traveling in it can be a scary experience because of the movement and the unfamiliar noises both at an airport and on the road. Also, remember vision from inside the carrier is obscured which can make a cat very uncomfortable.
An excellent way of dealing with any travel-induced apprehension would be to put a ThunderShirt on your feline while she is in transit to ease her anxiety and related stress. The ThunderShirt works on the principle mothers have used for centuries of “wearing their babies” in a sling or blanket strapped close to the body so that the baby feels secure and bonded with the parent. Cat behaviorists say that this principle works well with cats too.
But in the same way that the carrier should be left lying around the home for a good few weeks before travel, it’s a good idea to let your cat wear the shirt around the home in advance of the actual excursion. Some cats freeze when any form of clothing is put on them. Start with very short intervals and slowly extend the duration.
Also be sure to give her treats when it’s on so that she associates the garment with something good! The ThunderShirt comes in different sizes. Be sure to size it correctly because although you want the swaddling effect, you certainly don’t want it too tight!
Further, whether you are traveling by plane or car make sure that your cat has access to water at all times. It’s a good idea to freeze a bowl of water in advance of travel so that your cat can lick the ice as it melts. This also prevents spillage inside the carrier. It’s also a good idea to add a few drops of Rescue Remedy to the water bowl to further keep your furry passenger calm. Most veterinarians will recommend this over any kind of tranquilizer as pills can wear off and disorient your pet even more. Not to mention that any travel delays en route will only further exacerbate the problem.
Cats are very clean animals and get stressed if their environment is not clean. So be sure to line her carrier with a puppy pee pad so that if she has an accident, the pad will absorb the mishap and leave the surface of the pad dry. There are also portable litter boxes if you are traveling by road.
Whether you are staying with family or friends or checking into an hotel, it’s a good idea to let your feline wear her ThunderShirt at her destination to further settle her anxiety of being in unfamiliar surroundings. And, if you are traveling to a part of the country that experiences severe thunder storms, once again the shirt will come in handy.
Finally, never leave home without ensuring that your cat is micro chipped, her information registered with the company’s database and also ensure she is wearing a collar with an ID tag with up-to-date information. It’s important to double up because people will look at an ID tag first. But collars can come off. That’s where the microchip will kick in. Remember proper identification is a lost cat’s ticket home.