Pet-safe your holidays

Published 11:21 pm Thursday, December 22, 2011

A time of year that can be hectic and stressful for most humans can be downright terrifying and dangerous for pets.

“It’s important to make sure your pets are safe,” said Kay Hurley, director of community outreach for the Suffolk Humane Society. “It’s certainly a hectic time of year.”

Hurley said pet owners who are having guests for the holidays should ensure their pets have a safe, quiet place where they can retreat and have their identification tags on at all times in case they escape.

Email newsletter signup

“Pets who may be fine with you and your immediate family — other people may be stressful for them,” she said. “It’s better to make sure they have somewhere safe.”

Guests who are staying overnight and may not be as pet-savvy should be reminded to keep their medications and other dangerous items away from pets, Hurley said.

Even festive Christmas decorations can be dangerous for pets. Take care to hang ornaments high enough on the tree that pets cannot reach them.

“Shiny decorations can be really appealing,” Hurley said. “On my Christmas tree, I try to hang things toward the bottom that can’t be damaged, as well as a little bell so it’s a warning to me if somebody’s where they’re not supposed to be.”

Cat owners should avoid, tinsel because cats are notorious for eating it, Hurley said. It can cause blockages in their systems.

Some plants used in Christmas decorating are toxic to pets, most notably mistletoe, holly and poinsettias.

“Make sure what you’ve decorated with isn’t toxic to your pets, or if it is toxic, make sure those clever little paws can’t get to it,” she said.

In addition, pet owners should take great care with the extra candles and wires that come with holiday decorating, and make sure that pets don’t drink the water in the Christmas tree stand.

The abundance of food during the holidays also can present a danger for furry members of the family. Chocolate is toxic to dogs, and too many tidbits from the humans’ dinner table also can present a problem.

“If everybody’s throwing little treats under the table, that can make for a pretty miserable dog,” Hurley said.

As a final note of caution, Hurley said that anyone who gives a pet as a gift should ensure the family truly wants the pet, is prepared to take it home and is the right fit for the pet.

“We use the word adoption for pets, and I think that’s really on purpose, because you’re truly adopting a member of the family,” she said.