Pets as Presents?

It’s hard to resist the joy of giving your favorite loved one the pet they’ve always wanted for Christmas. However, the result of many of these well intentioned gifts is animals that are unwanted, uncared for and oftentimes sent to shelters. 
An animal of any kind (even one as small as a fish or a hamster) is not a light, last minute purchase. Bringing a new life into the house should be well thought out and discussed with the entire family. 

Holiday pets often get ignored in the holiday rush. Christmas morning is filled with so many presents, lots of food, family and relatives coming over…then there’s New Years in a few days. You think it’s stressful on you? Thank about what a pet who’s never been in your house before would be thinking. A new pet needs lots of quiet and calm. A new puppy or kitten needs to watched constantly and settle into a routine so they can become a happy member of the family. This is impossible to accomplish on Christmas. The new pet will just end up confused and scared. 

You should never pick an actual pet for another person, even a child. Bring the child along to pick out the animal and let it be a family event. All animals (even hamsters and fish) have distinct personalities and letting your entire family help with the choice makes the animal more special to them. Besides, don’t you want to see how the puppy interacts with your entire family? That great puppy you pick out for your son might not like kids. Your son might decide the puppy you like plays too rough. Your kids may decide they’d rather have a cat! 

New Puppies

Almost every child asks Santa for one, however a dog is MAJOR purchase and a new puppy needs lots of attention and care. With the hustle and bustle of the Christmas/New Year holiday, the puppy probably won’t get the attention it needs. That’s not even taking into account all the ribbon, trees, rich Christmas foods, chocolate and other dangers the puppy could unintentionally get in while your family is busy with their other gifts. 

Alternate ideas: Give the kids a stuffed puppy and tell them the new puppy is coming. Wrap a puppy bowl, collar, crate and other puppy supplies with a “certificate” to get a puppy at a later date. All of this stuff should be set up and ready for the puppy when it comes home anyway. This way, you and your family can set it up while you tell them about the responsibility of a new dog. Another great idea is a few books on puppy care (especially if you have an older child).

New Kittens

Kittens don’t take quite as much attention as puppies but they can still get into a lot of trouble at Christmas. Kittens are notorious for swallowing tinsel and ribbon and getting lots of stomach problems. Small kittens scare easily and the safest retreat will probably be up the tree which can be dangerous. 

Alternate ideas: Cat care kits, litter boxes, cat toys, books on kitten care. The litter box and a bed for kitty should be in place before he gets to his new house. You and the kids can decide where to put it.

Holiday Pet Safety

Holly, Jolly and Oh-So-Safe! Of course you want to include your furry companions in the festivities, pet parents, but as you celebrate this holiday season, try to keep your pet’s eating and exercise habits as close to their normal routine as possible. And be sure to steer them clear of the following unhealthy treats, toxic plants and dangerous decorations:
O Christmas Tree Securely anchor your Christmas tree so it doesn’t tip and fall, causing possible injury to your pet. This will also prevent the tree water—which may contain fertilizers that can cause stomach upset—from spilling. Stagnant tree water is a breeding ground for bacteria and your pet could end up with nausea or diarrhea should he imbibe.
Tinsel-less Town
Kitties love this sparkly, light-catching “toy” that’s easy to bat around and carry in their mouths. But a nibble can lead to a swallow, which can lead to an obstructed digestive tract, severe vomiting, dehydration and possible surgery. It’s best to brighten your boughs with something other than tinsel.
No Feasting for the Furries
By now you know not to feed your pets chocolate and anything sweetened with xylitol, but do you know the lengths to which an enterprising fur kid will go to chomp on something yummy? Make sure to keep your pets away from the table and unattended plates of food, and be sure to secure the lids on garbage cans.
Toy Joy
Looking to stuff your pet’s stockings? Choose gifts that are safe.

  • Dogs have been known to tear their toys apart and swallowing the pieces, which can then become lodged in the esophagus, stomach or intestines. Stick with chew toys that are basically indestructible, Kongs that can be stuffed with healthy foods or chew treats that are designed to be safely digestible.
  • Long, stringy things are a feline’s dream, but the most risky toys for cats involve ribbon, yarn and loose little parts that can get stuck in the intestines, often necessitating surgery. Surprise kitty with a new ball that’s too big to swallow, a stuffed catnip toy or the interactive cat dancer—and tons of play sessions together.

Forget the Mistletoe & Holly
Holly, when ingested, can cause pets to suffer nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Mistletoe can cause gastrointestinal upset and cardiovascular problems. And many varieties of lilies, can cause kidney failure in cats if ingested. Opt for just-as-jolly artificial plants made from silk or plastic, or choose a pet-safe bouquet.
Leave the Leftovers
Fatty, spicy and no-no human foods, as well as bones, should not be fed to your furry friends. Pets can join the festivities in other fun ways that won’t lead to costly medical bills.
That Holiday Glow
Don’t leave lighted candles unattended. Pets may burn themselves or cause a fire if they knock candles over. Be sure to use appropriate candle holders, placed on a stable surface. And if you leave the room, put the candle out!
Wired Up
Keep wires, batteries and glass or plastic ornaments out of paws’ reach. A wire can deliver a potentially lethal electrical shock and a punctured battery can cause burns to the mouth and esophagus, while shards of breakable ornaments can damage your pet’s mouth.
House Rules
If your animal-loving guests would like to give your pets a little extra attention and exercise while you’re busy tending to the party, ask them to feel free to start a nice play or petting session.
Put the Meds Away
Make sure all of your medications are locked behind secure doors, and be sure to tell your guests to keep their meds zipped up and packed away, too.
Careful with Cocktails
If your celebration includes adult holiday beverages, be sure to place your unattended alcoholic drinks where pets cannot get to them. If ingested, your pet could become weak, ill and may even go into a coma, possibly resulting in death from respiratory failure.
A Room of Their Own
Give your pet his own quiet space to retreat to—complete with fresh water and a place to snuggle. Shy pups and cats might want to hide out under a piece of furniture, in their carrying case or in a separate room away from the hubbub.
New Year’s Noise
As you count down to the new year, please keep in mind that strings of thrown confetti can get lodged in a cat’s intestines, if ingested, perhaps necessitating surgery. Noisy poppers can terrify pets and cause possible damage to sensitive ears.

Top Ten Holiday Pet Picks

With Santa’s reindeer gearing up for a sleighful of deliveries to pets and their people, pet owners are hitting the stores to do their own shopping for their furry friends. From stainless steel water fountains to Angry Birds toys, pet gifts this season will have pets (and humans) drooling and howling for more.
Here are some staff favorites from the team at AAHA that are sure to get tails wagging and paws pouncing this holiday season.

For the safety-conscious pet

10. Car seat harness:
There is no better gift than taking your pet with you when you travel – provided that your pet can travel securely! Buying a car seat harness will ensure that your pet receives the same level of safety that you do when you travel.
 

9. Travel carrier:
 
Take your pet to grandmother’s house in comfort and security this holiday season. Travel carriers help to contain your pet while riding in the car, making it a safer and more comfortable drive for both you and your pet.
 

For the sophisticated pet

8. Stainless steel water fountains:
Upgrading to a stainless steel water fountain this year may be a popular choice for pet lovers who want to add some class to their pets’ drinking style.
 
“I think crowds will love it this season since stainless steel is so fashionable in many kitchens and it is easy to clean,” one staff member says.


Drinkwell 360 Stainless Steel Pet Fountain


 
7. Baked doggie goods from local doggie bakeries:
 
Fancy doggie goodies from specialized bakeries can whet your pet’s palate in a way that everyday treats can’t quite do.

“Christmas and his birthday are the only times my dog gets to indulge with these!” says one AAHA staff member.

6. Homemade dog treats:
 
If purchasing special goodies from bakeries isn’t your thing, make your own doggie treats.

“You can always make dog biscuits with cookie cut-outs,” one staff member says. “I recently made a disgusting liver bar recipe. I liquefied chicken livers in a food processor, added corn meal and flour, and then baked them. After, I cut them up into bars. It was gross to make and smell while they were baking but my dogs LOVED them.”
Other recipes include mixing baby food, corn meal and dry milk. Peanut butter is always a good add-in, staff says.

For the fun-loving pet

5. Hartz Angry Birds dog toys:
Angry Birds = happy dogs. Based on the popular mobile game app that pits birds against greedy green pigs, the double-sided Angry Birds flyer will have your dog chasing it down just so that he can get his teeth on this toy’s ballistic nylon.

4. Hartz Angry Birds cat toys: Don’t forget that cats love Angry Birds, too! The Angry Birds Running Bird toy stimulates your cat’s predatory instinct by shaking and vibrating its catnip innards, driving cats crazy and tempting their paws to pounce.  
Angry Bird Cat Toy  

For the behavior-challenged dog:

3. Through a Dog’s Ear (CD series):
This series uses music to help calm anxious dogs in stressful settings like shelters and hospitals. Instrumentation on each album is carefully chosen to relax dogs by gradually slowing their heart rates. Many of the albums have been tested for effectiveness on dogs in shelters, clinics and homes.

 
Through a Dog’s Ear

2. Thundershirt:
 
The holidays can be a stressful time for anxiety or stress-prone dogs. A Thundershirt can help reduce anxiety by creating a snug, comfortable fit that comforts dogs when in stressful situations.

“Everyone is talking about how these can help dogs that exhibit behavioral issues when stressed,” one staff member says. “They’re most often applied to calm thunderstorm fears but I hear of people using them in situations they know their dog finds stressful.”
For a stressed pooch, a Thundershirt may be the perfect gift that can keep on giving all year round.

 

For the pet who has everything else

 

1. Time:
For the owner on a budget or for the pet who has everything, the gift of time is the top gift for any pet this year.

“According to my cats, the best present I can give them is my time,” a staff member says. “They would like nothing better than for me to spend hours petting them and brushing them and scratching them and just loving them.”