Merry Christmas … To All! (and Happy New Year!!)

Well, I’m writing this during the chaotic whirlwind that is the week before Christmas – I like to think of it as the storm before the calm! There’s an awful lot of preparation that goes into the festive season, from shopping to cooking to decorating homes and gardens, not to mention preparing for time off work. But, it’s all worth it when the big day comes. I can’t wait to see the little man’s face on Christmas morning when he sees what Santa has left for him!

Then, after Christmas, we can enjoy a few restful days – whether that’s on the sofa binge-watching films or taking to the great outdoors to walk off that extra helping of Christmas pud (and a lorry-load of mince pies…). Whatever you do, it’s nice to have a break from the old routine.

But… (there’s always a but, isn’t there!) not everyone relishes this break from routine. Some people – and most animals – thrive on routine, so when everything’s different they can feel a bit unsettled. Things just start to get a bit weird at this time of year and their home, which is usually their sanctuary, suddenly feels a bit odd…

I mean, for a start you’ve brought a tree into your house. Are your pets just meant to accept that and carry on as it everything’s normal? If Fido so much as attempts to bring a stick across the threshold he gets in trouble but all of a sudden you’ve moved furniture to accommodate a great big tree and you’ve even dressed it up as if it’s some kind of prize! And then, to add insult to injury, Kitty gets told off if she dashes up the branches to get a good look at the star on top, or has a little game of ping pong with a bauble! Honestly, human beings are soooo confusing! What’s a pet to do?

And then there are the visitors. People trooping in and out with big bags of colourful things, ripping paper off left, right and centre – but heaven forbid if Fido has a little go at that! There are lovely scents emanating from the kitchen but, again, it seems to be frowned upon if Kitty jumps up for a little nibble of that delicious smelling bird.

The kids are especially hyperactive and there’s a lot of noise – I mean, how’s a dog meant to get any kip round here with Mariah Whatshername warbling and people singing and laughing. But, if Fido happens to try and tell Grandad that he’s sitting in his spot on the sofa … well, he gets sent out of the room!

While I wouldn’t suggest scaling down your celebrations or turning off the lights and music in order to accommodate your pet, it is important that you’re aware of their needs. There are a few simple things you can do to minimise the stress that the festive season places on your furry friends and helps everyone to enjoy a very merry Christmas:

Give your pets a safe space

Some animals will have a whale of a time joining in with all the fun and frivolity but, for others, it can be totally overwhelming. Make sure they’ve got a safe haven to retreat to somewhere in the house for when it all gets too much, and ensure kids and visitors know this spot is out of bounds. (Come to think of it, I might like one of these, too!)

Keep them safe

There are lots of very tempting looking things around at Christmas but none of them are going to taste as good as they look to animals! Make sure you hang lights and decorations out of pets’ reach in case they’re tempted to have a little nibble and also be careful about what presents you place under the tree. Wrapping paper is no barrier to a cat or dog’s sensitive sniffer and, if they smell something delicious, they may just help themselves whether their name’s on the gift label or not … which could result in a very upset tummy or an emergency vet’s visit.

Don’t share food!

Yes, I know they say ‘sharing is caring’ but that’s really not the case when it comes to animals and food. You may want to treat your beloved pet on Christmas Day but, believe me, sharing the festive treats is not the way to do it! Some food, like chocolate, mince pies or stuffing with onion, can be highly poisonous to pets so to avoid any potential mishaps then get them their own, pet friendly treats.

Stick to a routine

Now, I did say that Christmas is a good time to have a break from the old routine but, where pets are concerned, try to keep their day as similar as you can to their usual structure. If you always have a little play in the garden before breakfast, then carry on with that – otherwise poor Fido will wonder what he’s done and will just stand at the back door looking forlorn. Likewise, if you’re planning a sofa day it doesn’t mean you can skip Fido’s walk so wrap up, get those boots on and embrace the fresh air – it’ll do you both good! Regular mealtimes can go out of the window for us humans over Christmas as we tend to graze all day or indulge in one big meal and then feel stuffed for the rest of the day, but pets don’t need to be part of this gastronomic lunacy! Try to feed your pets at roughly the same time as you always do and, whether it’s a cat, rabbit, dog, guinea pig, hamster or any other pet, don’t forget that they’ll still need cleaning, cuddling and exercising daily, too – no matter what else is going on.

Involve them in the excitement

There’s definitely something going on, that much is evident – so to avoid your pet feeling pushed out by the festivities (and that suspicious looking tree in the corner) make sure you involve them. Get them a new toy and give them plenty of fuss and attention. Make the whole experience a positive one for your pet and they’re more likely to be keen to join in the fun.

Keep an eye on the time

You’ll probably be out and about over Christmas (Covid permitting!) hopefully visiting family and friends or enjoying parties. I don’t want to be a party pooper but I know that time flies when you’re having fun and soon the minutes turn into hours and, especially when the drinks are flowing, going home can be the last thing on your mind … but don’t forget about poor Fido, at home with his legs crossed wondering where you are, or Kitty meowing at the door waiting to be let in. If you know you’re going to be out for a while, arrange for a friend, neighbour or pet-sitter to call in on your furry friend to make sure they’re safe and happy while you’re out partying.

All that remains for me to say is I wish you, and your pets, a VERY merry Christmas … I’ll be back to chat in 2022!