We caught up with nationally renowned pet expert and behaviorist Harrison Forbes to get his insight into ensuring your furry friends are safe and healthy this season.
There are several different types of hazards for dogs and cats during the holidays. When it comes to cats, Forbes says that most accidents are either glass-related or fire-related. "The main hazards are items that are dangling, which cats want to paw at and grab at them. For example, a cat may paw at a shiny holiday ornament, and then it falls off of the tree, breaks and cuts them," he explains. "Cats also love anything that looks like it is shimmering, like candles. In this instance, they may paw at it, knock it over and start a fire."
With dogs, the big hazard is holiday foods, which might be tasty for you, but not good for your pup. "People tend to feed a lot of scraps to their dogs without realizing how it can affect their dogs' digestive systems," notes Forbes. He warns against giving your dog chocolate and also making sure dogs stay away from holiday plants and flowers, specifically poinsettias, which are mildly poisonous in large quantities. Another area of concern for dogs during the holidays is wrapping paper and bows. "Dogs often get tangled up in long bows, ribbons, or even ingest these types of items."
Sometimes traveling with pets during the holidays is inevitable, but if you have the option of leaving your cat or dog at home, do it. "Many pets will actually do better by staying in their own environment with a sitter or neighbor checking in on them," says Forbes. "Pets really thrive on scheduled routines, so it is important to stick to and maintain their routines. Travel is very disruptive to their routines."
If you do decide to travel with a pet, check with the airline about what you need to do to fly with your pet since the requirements for traveling with a pet varies from airline to airline. "You will need to make sure your vet paperwork is in order, and that you timed your health certificate properly. Oftentimes, your health certificate has to be issued within three to four days of your flight," Forbes says. "Also, ensure that your crate is approved for travel, and make sure you follow all of the requirements to have your pet either by your feet or in the luggage area."
If it's a car trip you’ll be taking your pet on, Forbes recommends taking as many familiar items with you as possible. "Pack your pet's favorite toys, treats, etc. to help smooth out the disruption from being away from their regular routine. Make sure you take your food with you, and that the place you are going also has access to the same brand of food," he advises. If you change food on your pet (especially dogs), they may end up with an upset stomach.
The holidays are a busy time — you're traveling, there are more people coming in and out of the house, and you're strapped for time. Forbes notes that the most important thing for pet owners to keep in mind is to keep your pets on their same routine schedule as much as possible. "Change in routines upsets pets," he says. "During the holidays, people tend to have more house guests or parities, so it is important to make sure your pet is acclimated to those types of situations. If you have a pet who becomes nervous around people, create a quiet place for the pet to relax well in advance of the party or holiday season," he also suggests. If you will be entertaining a lot this season, start getting your pet ready now. "Gradually start a routine where your pet can have a quiet place, such as a spare bedroom, so that your pet has a positive association with the quiet place," says Forbes. "Another thing to consider is to make sure you keep an eye on your pet if you have a pet who is prone to escaping. Oftentimes, guests or relatives will leave the front door open or cracked, and pets can escape quickly."
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