Meowy Christmas and Happy Howlidays!

“Friends don’t let friends dress up their cats…” [“Mason”, 2011]

cat wrapped in christmas lights

Meowy Christmas and Happy Howlidays friends!! Can you believe we are here again already? Seems like just yesterday I was getting showered with treats, toys, catnip and pettings… oh wait, that was yesterday! It doesn’t take a holiday for my staff to spoil me! Speaking of getting spoiled, let’s talk about how you can keep your furry friends safe during the holiday season.

First I will bring up my favorite topic: food!! I will be the first to say that I love when my two legged friends offer me a goodie now and then. (Dr. Garrood treats me to kitty-friendly yogurt! Shh, don’t tell!) One of the most common problems with pets getting food meant for the two legged variety is the gastrointestinal upset. It may be something like a little diarrhea or vomiting here and there (which still isn’t fun for pet or owner) and other times it can be much worse, sometimes even fatal. Most people are familiar with chocolate being a no-no. Thankfully not many of us felines have a silly chocolate craving. Main courses such as ham and poultry often bring furry friends sitting at your feet under the dinner table, begging and pleading with very sad puppy dog or kitty cat eyes. Humans are often drawn into our spells and give us some table scraps. One issue with this is that often people do not know how many others have been doing this and your pet could end up with way more people food than they can handle. Now if everyone is careful, sometimes a tiny bit of meat won’t hurt. You definitely however want to avoid giving pets poultry skin, “fatty parts”, and poultry bones. Poultry bones are very prone to splintering which can wreak havoc on the intestines. Food that is rich or spicy can also cause a hurt tummy, as with any other food that your pet is not used to having. In more extreme cases, certain foods may cause inflammation of the intestines or pancreas and can be life threatening. This warning goes for leaving food out or not properly disposing of it where it can be within paws’ reach (and eventually mouth’s reach!) Speaking of items being easily accessible, many people have bowls with little no-no goodies such as chocolates, mint or other candies out on coffee tables and counters. Any determined cat or dog (or even some very clever “exotic” pets) can usually access such yummies in the blink of an eye, often something that can be especially hazardous if no one notices anything missing (i.e small candies or cookies.) Heck, even those blessed with more cuteness than brains can usually pull off a food heist.

Tinsel, ribbons, ornament hooks, candles and other small objects (whether décor, gift wrapping accessories or toys) are a few of a cat’s favorite things. Watch out for ornaments too; even those on the tree can be all too appealing to a curious cat’s eye. We are great climbers so seeing that awesome ornament a.k.a cat toy dangling from the Christmas tree branch soon becomes our #1 goal. So now you’ve got a cat up a tree and raining decorations and tree needles. You know we aren’t going to clean it up either; we just like to make the mess, +/- ingest a beautiful holiday foreign body and take off. If you’re lucky, we will remember the spirit of the holidays and keep the vomiting to a minimum and on an easily cleanable surface. Those not so lucky may be making a very pricey visit to the vet or even the emergency room. This goes for you dogs out there too! Actually, any animal that you have living in your house that is out and about could potentially have this scenario play out. Dogs can be nature’s garbage disposals and whatever I knock down, McGruff could pick up. A dog’s tail can knock things off of the tree, knock over candles and other holiday decorations too; next thing you know you’re at the emergency clinic with your dog (who knocked everything over and ate it), the cat (who then batted everything on the floor and possibly ate it after taking to a remote corner to hide it) and even the bird (who when flying over to see the commotion, ended up in the middle of the crossfire of tree and decorations). Bottom line folks? BE CAREFUL! Animals are more clever than you may think and we can make toys (or food) out of just about anything. Christmas can be like, well, Christmas for cats when it comes to all of the “toys” that our humans leave lying around. My advice, as any vet will tell you, is to just be safe and keep items like this put away and only bring out when they can be supervised.

That reminds me… animals LOVE to play with, chew and ingest plants. They may act like they don’t, but could always fool you and get into things once you’ve left the room. Even if they haven’t touched them in the ten years you’ve had the pleasure of their presence, everyone knows that pets, (cats especially), can find new hobbies easily. The best idea is to have a list of plants that are no-go’s so that you don’t bring the wrong thing into your home. Friends and family may have the best intentions when they send you beautiful flowers, but chances are they weren’t thinking about the animal that could possibly get into it. Poinsetta plants have always been the holiday scare as far as pets go, though we have since learned that although ingestion could cause vomiting and/or diarrhea, it is actually fairly safe. Mistletoe, red azaleas, pine tree needles, amaryllis, lilies and paperwhites are definitely things you need to be careful with and should keep out of our reach!! Better yet, maybe stick to non-hazardous plants to lower the chances of something bad happening. Even the water from the Christmas tree can pose a threat if ingested. (Check out the link at the bottom of the page for more information about plant toxicity and pets.)

To end my lecture, let me mention just a few other things to consider during the holidays. Many of you human’s like to “socialize” from what I’ve heard and get a whole bunch of humans to gather in your pet’s home. This can potentially lead to a few issues if not careful. I know a lot of my feline acquaintances tend to hide from all of you people when you get together (what exactly are herds of humans called??) We may seem stoic and put together however we can also stress out quite easily. We are all about having a routine and when things other than our routine are happening around us, we can become very cranky and upset. Dogs do not typically hide (other than a few exceptions), though they can still become stressed easily. They usually will end up with gastrointestinal upset of some sort, with the most popular ailment being diarrhea (another reason to keep them in a quiet room or environment away from the table!) This also helps by keeping them away from the doors if people are going in and out. The last thing anyone wants is to turn that “Ugly Holiday Sweater party” into a search party. If you are traveling and plan to bring your pet with you, it’s best to find out what needs to be taken care of far enough in advance if possible. I advise bringing along your pet’s vaccination records, rabies certificate and, if possible, even the last year or so of medical history in the event something happens while away from home. Your vet should be more than happy to fax over records to other clinics, however, if after hours, you may be out of luck. Just be prepared! This goes for car AND airline travel. Speaking of airline travel, most airlines require health certificates within a certain time prior to departure. This will require a vet visit so find out ahead of time so you can make the appointment if necessary. If you are flying internationally, that can be a whole new can of cat food and is something that needs to be planned much, much further in advance. I advise calling your vet for details so that it goes as smoothly as possible. When you humans stress out, we stress out! Also, remember that whenever your cat is in a car with you (even if it’s not a holiday trip), PUT US IN A CARRIER!! I don’t care how much we moan and hiss; this is the safest possible thing that you can do. I hear all too often about how great a traveler someone’s cat is and has been for 10 years, however anything can happen. If someone else hits your car, regardless of how good your cat is, that can be a matter of life or death. It is imperative to consider these things because anything can happen and we can even get spooked and do something to cause an accident. So again, make sure that no matter what pet you are taking along (even to your vet), they are safely secure and not getting “free range” of the vehicle. You may be kicking yourself later. Last but not least, please do not give us as holiday gifts unless it is something that has been seriously discussed by all involved. Kids love getting kittens and puppies and other pets as gifts but many will not end up taking care of them- YOU WILL. Are you prepared? Same goes for adults and the gift giving. We don’t want to end up back at a shelter, abandoned or being bounced from home to home because someone either didn’t want us to begin with or changed their mind.

Well folks, I am off to go do something naughty as usual! Santa won’t find out… I am including some information for emergency veterinary clinics in our area so that you can be prepared in the event you need one! Have a very Happy Howliday everyone, no matter what you celebrate and remember to keep us critters safe this holiday season (and every season!)

The following places offer 24/7 veterinary care:

THE HOPE CENTER: 140 Park St SE Vienna, VA 22180 (703) 281-5121 (They do not treat exotic pets.)

THE LIFE CENTRE: 165 Fort Evans Rd NE Leesburg, VA 20176 . (703) 777-5755 (They treat some exotic pets in emergencies. Please call ahead first)

VCA SOUTH PAWS VETERINARY SPECIALISTS & EMERGENCY CENTER: 8500 Arlington Blvd Fairfax, VA 22031 (703) 752-7100

PENDER VETERINARY CARE & 24HR EMERGENCY: 4001 Legato Road Fairfax, Virginia 22033 (703) 591-3304 **PENDER HAS A SPECIALTY EXOTICS DEPT- (Same address, different phone number) : (703) 654-3100 (Contact for hours of operation & details)

ASPCA PLANT TOXICITY LIST (For dogs, cats & horses):