Whether its Christmas, Hanukkah, Yule or Silvester that you're looking forward to in the coming weeks, it's important to ensure that companion cats, dogs, rabbits and other non-human housemates have a good time too. Changes to routines, loud noises and over-enthusiastic children can be stressful and confusing for companion animals, and intended kindness may result in more harm than good. Here are a few ways to look after the non-human members of the family this wintertime.
* Don't offer dogs and cats too many treats or too much rich food. A sudden change in diet can cause sickness, just like in humans, whilst putting on weight can lead to longer-term health problems. Treats are great, but in moderation.
* Keep chocolate out of dogs' reach; it's poisonous for canines. Not all guests, especially children, will necessarily be aware of this, so it's a good idea to give them a polite heads-up before their well-intended sharing of chocolates leads to an emergency trip to a vet.
* Ditto mistletoe and holly, which are also toxic if consumed.
* Pick up small toys and ornaments. Yes, it's difficult to keep on top of cleaning and tidying during a party, but small items can be dangerous choking hazards. There's no need to interrupt a social event to completely re-organise, but having a box with a lid in the corner to temporarily hide pieces of plastic or fallen decorations in might be a life-saver.
* Find time to walk with dogs and cuddle with cats and house rabbits. A familiar face and voice will reassure a nervous animal and show rabbits especially, who may find themselves confined to a much smaller area than usual, that they have not been forgotten.
*Dedicate a quiet space ideally within a closed room, with a favourite blanket and toy, plus food and water, where companion animals can safely and quietly retreat from noisy gatherings.
*Choose reduced-noise fireworks and keeps dogs and cats inside with closed curtains when it's time to light them. Don't forget to clean up the debris too, so that it doesn't get eaten by a curious explorer in the following days.
*And of course, if it becomes clear that a friend or acquaintance is planning on buying a living being as a gift, try to explain why animals should not be treated as objects, and if this does not resonate, highlight the huge responsibilities of caring for a companion. That often-forgotten saying is as true as can be: they are indeed for life, not just for Christmas.
Photo courtesy of Jorgen Kesseler, used under the terms of the Creative Commons license.