Director of the Animal Behavior Clinic, Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, Tufts University
Perhaps you have family and friends coming over for a holiday party. That's all well and good for you, but what about your pet? If your dog or cat is people friendly, the arrival of the horde might provide hours of entertainment. But if your pet is not a fan of strangers or is aggressive, or if you have guests who don't like animals, it might be best to set up a separate area of the house, well away from the madding crowd. The location should be comfortable, equipped with a bed, food, water, toys, and -- essential for cats -- a litter box. To help soothe your pet and drown out the clamor of the party, it can be helpful to play melodic music softly in the background
Many of our pets are curious about the food we eat, and such temptations can be all the more abundant at the holidays. But it's important to keep special roasts and chocolate gift boxes out of animals' reach. Raw meats can be contaminated by harmful bacteria. And cooked turkeys and such contain bones, which can cause sometimes deadly intestinal obstructions. Chocolate contains caffeinelike substances that can induce diarrhea and vomiting, overexcitement, seizures, and even fatalities in pets.
The season will likely present other enticements to animals, like unsafe plants (such as lilies and pine trees) and exposed wires, which pets will want to chew. So take commonsense precautions and keep a watchful eye. And whether your pet is included in the festivities or not, make sure to give him or her enough attention. Dogs still need to be walked regularly, and cats benefit from play sessions and petting. A special gift or two doesn't hurt either, just so they can enjoy the spirit of the holidays, too.
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