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Tis The Season

by Barry KuKes
Well, here it is, December, once again. I can not believe we just enjoyed Thanksgiving and it will soon be Christmas day. It seems the older I get, the faster time passes. Maybe there is a direct correlation between time movement and the amount of time one has left. I hear many older folks make the same observations about time and how quickly it passes.

This is the perfect time to remind pet owners of the do’s and don’ts of the holiday season, so let’s not waste any more time and get to it.

Food And Other Edibles:
Pets have a tendency to get into things that they shouldn’t. It’s not their fault. The person responsible for the pet is at fault for not taking the proper precautions to protect their pets. Have you ever heard the saying, “Curiosity killed the cat?” Unfortunately, curiosity can also kill any animal including dogs, goats, mice, hamsters, turtles, and even humans as well. If pet owners remove or place items out of reach of their pets in the first place, they won’t need to rush their pets to the veterinary ER or, worse, deal with the pet’s passing.
Chocolate, grapes, onions, and any candy containing Xylitol are toxic to animals, and if a large amount is ingested, the animal can die. Other food items are toxic to animals. For the entire list of foods and plants harmful to dogs and cats, visit https://www.humaneso

Holiday Decorations:
Non-food items like Christmas tree garlands and ornament hooks can be-come choking hazards for pets. A shiny, long strand of garland is very enticing to a cat, and curiosity will prevail, so skip the garlands this year. Lighted candles can be dangerous to animals and small children, so place your holiday candles out of reach, or, better yet, invest in fake candles powered by batteries instead of a flame.
I often hear stories about cats that climb onto the Christmas tree or the dog that jumps on the tree in an effort to retrieve what appears to be a toy. In both cases, the homeowner returns from a day of shopping to find their tree crashed upon the floor and ornaments and lights askew. Keeping your pets away from the tree can be challenging and requires special training with lots of “No! No’s!”

Other Things To Consider:
The holidays are usually a time of entertaining guests, which means lots of food will be out on counters and tables within reach of your pets. Left unattended, snack food bags can be too tempting for a dog or cat that smells Doritos, Cheetos, and chips. Many cases have been reported of a pet suffocating when the bag gets stuck on their head. As the animal eats the contents, they also deplete the amount of oxygen in the bag. The bag starts to close around the animal’s head, and as they struggle to remove it, the last of the oxygen is removed. Empty all bag contents into a bowl and cut the bag up so it is not a suffocation hazard for domestic and wild animals. Raccoons and other animals have been found deceased with a snack food bag on their head.

Educate your guests about your pets. Most pets do not eat people’s food, but your guests may not be aware of your pet’s dietary restrictions. Tell your guests what your pet can and cannot have. Also, make your guests aware that you have pets. A guest often opens the door to go outside and never thinks about the house cat that just ran between their legs and is now on its own and at the mercy of predators. We watch our dogs constantly when we are entertaining. I usually place them in our bedroom with a baby gate in the doorway to prevent them from leaving the room. They have water and toys, but usually, they are only interested in one thing; joining the party.

Once all the guests arrive, I will ask if anyone is afraid of or allergic to dogs. If everyone is okay with me letting the dogs out, they will join the festivities. However, I will always educate my guests on what the dogs can and cannot have.
Having a pet can be taxing at times, but if you take the appropriate precautions, you and they can have a happy holiday season. If you don’t have a pet to share your holiday with, consider fostering or adopting one. Giving a pet to a child as a Christmas or Hanukkah gift is not recommended unless you are the child’s parent or have the parent’s permission. If a friend has recently lost their beloved pet and you want to surprise them with a new puppy or kitten, giving them a gift certificate to the animal shelter and letting them select their pet when the time is right would be better. Lastly, please, adopt, don’t shop.

Barry KuKes is the former Community Outreach Director of Halifax Humane Society. E-mail him at bkukes@gmail. com View more of his work at