The Best Kind of Christmas is one with Pets
Have your Christmas traditions changed since having a pet?
Column by Alice Clark RVN
“Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house, not a creature was stirring…” Hang on a second, if my gang of pets were allowed free reign of the house (Christmas tree, decorations, presents and all) something definitely would be stirring…
As I’m sure most other families do, we’ve always had our own Christmas traditions. When we were younger, it meant present opening first thing in the morning on Christmas Day, before travelling to spend the day with family and our coffee table laden with Christmas nibbles (in my opinion, better than Christmas dinner). These traditions changed somewhat in mid-November 2002. Why is that, I hear you ask? On 12th November 2002, a little bundle of black fluff joined our family – Izzy, an eight-week-old Standard Poodle.
Now, Izzy was an unusually well behaved puppy, right from the word go (with the exception of stealing a whole baguette and a packet of muffins in her adolescence), however just like any puppy she was excitable and curious around anything new, meaning we made a few changes to our festive celebrations and although Izzy is no longer with us, we’ve since added a further five furry members to our family and with each one we’ve had to make further ‘adjustments’ to our Christmases…
Home is where your pets are. Our pets have made us realise just how much we love spending our Christmas Day at home, as a family. Granted, pets can be a massive tie all year round, even more so at this time of year with considering how long they can be left alone or whether they can come along with you. A couple of well-adjusted pups may be welcome to join Christmas celebrations at a relative’s house, however having cats or a large number of pets can make travelling pretty difficult. Alternatively, providing your pets are happy around visitors, it might be easier to host Christmas at your house, where your pets will feel most comfortable. After a busy day, there’s nothing I enjoy more than snuggling up on the sofa with my pooches, so really this one’s a blessing in disguise. Plus, if my pups won’t be welcome as visitors to another home, I’d rather not go!
Are all of these presents for me? If you’ve always stored an abundance of beautifully wrapped presents under the Christmas tree, this might be something you need to rethink once there’s extra four-legged members joining in the celebrations. Although not all pets will be tempted by gifts, ribbons and bows, I would think most would find it unbearable not to unwrap at least one or two. Most importantly, if you do wish to keep the majority of your presents under the tree, consider placing those containing food items (especially chocolates) elsewhere, well out of reach of those pesky paws and noses.
Every move you make, every bite you take, they’ll be watching you. Whilst we’re on the subject of delicious Christmas delicacies, it certainly means no more Christmas nibbles within easy reach for the pets or us. If we do decide to munch whilst watching Christmas television, we just have to accept that we may have a couple of dogs watching intently (and likely drooling profusely) from across the room. You can forget nipping to the loo during the adverts and expecting to return to your seat, no doubt some little person has jumped into the warm patch to get a little closer to the pigs in blankets.
Don’t let it end with a bang. During Christmas lunch festivities, if your pets are nervous of fireworks and other loud noises, you might want to avoid pulling your Christmas crackers whilst they’re in the room or even remove the ‘bangers’ prior to pulling. Izzy despised us pulling crackers, even if we were in a different room she would shiver and shake for a good hour afterwards. If you’re more creative than I am, you could even try making your own silent crackers.
Deck the halls with barriers and stair gates. There are some fantastic photos circulating the Internet of the ingenious ways people are protecting their Christmas décor from their pets. My personal favourites include upside-down Christmas trees suspended from the ceiling and trees entirely enclosed in cages. Active and young cats love exploring decorations around the house, so it’s no surprise that many can’t resist climbing Christmas trees and batting baubles. Not to mention bringing a tree into the house for the first time may confuse some dogs and cats and encourage them to cock their leg against it or spray on it (thankfully this has never happened in our house)! Safety wise, consider swapping glass decorations for plastic or wooden ones, take care with tinsel and fairy lights, which could get wrapped around your pets and candles, for obvious reasons.
Spreading the Christmas cheer. Despite getting spoilt all year round, Christmas is the perfect excuse to lavish your pets with gifts. New toys and treats provide the perfect solution to pets feeling left out of the festivities. Izzy always loved unwrapping her (badly) wrapped presents and, seeing as her favourite toys were stuffed toys with squeakers, she particularly enjoyed squeaking these through the wrapping paper! Giving your pets their own presents to open might just occupy them for long enough to keep their noses out of everyone else’s and new toys might distract them from begging at lunchtime – that’s if you can put up with incessant squeaking (maybe hold off on the squeaky toys).
Walking in a winter wonderland. Whilst we all enjoy a complete change in our daily routines around Christmas, it’s good to keep to some routine with your pets. Christmas morning walks are a great way to spend time with your dog before the manic celebrations begin and a breath of fresh air following your Christmas pudding can be a welcome escape from the madness. The dreaming by the fire bit is only allowed once the dogs have had their exercise. Besides, as there’s nothing better than watching dogs and cats discovering snow, we’re hoping for a proper white Christmas this year.