Saturday, February 5, 2011

Happy Holidays

Merry Christmas! Hope things are calm and enjoyable at your house. I am way behind on Christmas this year. I am so far behind, in fact, that I started this post in mid December and am just now coming back to it in early February! But I figured, what the heck; most of the tips are still valid, plus I had already loaded the pictures of Christmas past and pets gone ahead (except for my puppy Robbie's Christmas Elf shot) and I didn't want to wait till next year to use them. I'm sure no one who knows me will be surprised that, as I write this, I still have wreaths on my windows and stockings on my fireplace mantle! At any rate , read on, use what you can now and remember for next year!

With all the hectic activity at Christmas, it's easy for our pets to get lost in the shuffle. Already we are seeing some of our common "Christmas cases". Remember, it is important to make your house as safe and "pet proof" as possible. If you had a two year old, you wouldn't wait to see if they were going to fall down the steps before you bought a baby gate, would you? NO! Not only would you invest in baby gates, but you probably would get electrical outlet covers, make sure book cases were secure so they can't be pulled over, place hot pots far back out of reach on the stove, etc. It's no different with pets, especially puppies and kittens under a year of age. Take a long hard look at your home (especially now with all the holiday decorations in place) and take steps to prevent problems before they occur.

Since I have a six month old puppy and two 18 month old "kittens", I have taken the easy way out this year and skipped a Christmas tree- since I'm not hosting any formal Christmas get togethers it seemed easier. However, you don't have to forgo a tree, just use some common sense. Make sure electrical cords and extensions are placed safely so that they can't be reached for chewing or tugging (and pulling over trees!). If you have a puppy going through that intense chewy period, you may want to use something to protect the cords. Ikea sells cord protectors, I'm not sure if they are commercially available elsewhere but quick and easy alternatives are shower curtain rod covers (for smaller less aggressive chewers) or running the cords through lengths of PVC which can then be tucked under the couch or along a baseboard.

Cats find strings and ribbons irresistable; particularly kittens. "Icicles" on the trees have fallen out of vogue, but in case you are tempted and have cats, skip them! Be cautious with tinsel though this does not seem quite as appealing. Ribbons on gifts, particularly the skinny ribbon you curl with scissors, can be tempting; either put gifts out of reach or consider using stick on bows instead if you have a playful kitty. And don't forget the strings on balloons- as the balloon loses it's helium and starts to sink, the string can come into reach for the cat. In everyday, non-holiday life, thread (with or without needles) is quite appealing- the cats bat the spools around and as the thread unravels they end up swallowing some. Hair bands and scrunchies are another irresistable item with similar consequences. Why are strings such a problem? As the cats play with them, they often swallow an end- and then more, and more...sometimes and end ends up wrapped around the tongue with the rest in the stomach, sometimes there is just a wad in the stomach. As the string starts to pass through the intestine, frequently part of it will "hang up" somewhere- often the part wrapped around the tongue or the other, wadded up end in the stomach. As the intestines contract and push part of the string through, if an end is caught the string makes the intestines start to bunch up, like curtains on a rod. This can cause an obstruction so nothing else can pass; and in some cases the string starts to saw through the intestinal walls resulting in leakage of the contents into the abdomen and setting up a peritonitis. String foreign bodies are very common and VERY serious; they can easily be fatal. Many of the cases we see could have been prevented if the owners were aware of the problem and took steps to limit the cat's access. My own cats are OBSESSED with my hair bands; so the rule at my house is a)only one at a time "out" and in use- any extras are stowed safely in a drawer b) band is NEVER left on a counter or table- it goes from my hair to wrapped around the handle of my brush, and back to my hair again. It takes my cats about 30 seconds (not exaggerating!) to hone in on it if I should forget and leave it on my nightstand. I have to admit my pets have trained me to be a MUCH better housekeeper than I was a few years ago!

Be careful with any gifts wrapped by someone else and brought to put under your tree until Christmas! Don't hesitate to ask if there is anything in them that might be edible or even SMELL like it might be edible. It is a pretty common occurrence for us to have dogs brought in who have eaten packages containing candy or cookies, sometimes unbeknownst to their owner. And their definition of edible is pretty relaxed- I remember years ago when big candles scented like various cakes were very popular and someone had wrapped one and given it to my mother. She put it under the tree to open later; however, our cocker had other ideas. She was sure that the package contained a REAL double chocolate cake, unwrapped it, and ate a pretty good amount of the candle that was as big as her head! Luckily it did no real damage (though I no longer remember, I suspect she probably had a pretty good case of diarrhea for a while though!). Also remember if you buy and wrap treats or chews for your pets for Christmas, DON'T put these under the tree- stow them in the pantry until time to open them!
Also remember if you have overnight guests for the holidays, make sure to check with them about anything edible (or edible smelling, like toothpaste) they might have in their suitcases, and ask them to keep any medications either in their purse (stowed appriately in a closet) or in a cabinet out of reach of children and pets. Another place where I speak from experience!

Finally, not a warning but a funny family story that has reached legendary proportions at our house. Years ago, we had a cat named Ziggy and for Christmas we bought him a toy that was common at the time; it was a little plastic "punching bag" shaped toy. The top of the punching bag unscrewed so that you could fill it with fresh catnip, and the other end had a suction cup so you could attach the punching bag to the floor or the wall. We wrapped it and put it under the tree. I was in college and my sister probably in high school at the time. One Sunday just before Christmas we were upstairs getting ready for church when I heard my mother WAIL from the living room "Thom (my dad), there's MARIJUANA under the Christmas tree!". My sister and I fell over laughing; we didn't know what she had found, but we were pretty sure it wasn't pot! As it turned out, the cat toy had a little zip lock baggie of catnip that came with it to fill the bag; Ziggy apparently had smelled it and decided to unwrap it in the night and have a little pre-Christmas celebration. My mom, not being the most hip and happening chick around, found the baggie with the green "herbs" the next morning and made her own conclusions...25 years later, thinking about it can still make me laugh till I cry!
Hope you all had a great holiday and that you are ahead of me in taking care of the aftermath! Just think how far ahead I am of the game- you can consider this post my contribution for Christmas 2011!

Pictured in this blog, and always missed especially at Christmas time, shelties Andy and Levi, cat Grouch, and cocker own Christmas angels.

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