Best of 2017: Pet talk: Having Happy and Safe Holidays

The holiday season is a time when our pets are under a lot of pressure. The normal daily routine is upset and everything is in turmoil. Visitors come to visit, or owners are away in the evenings visiting their family and friends.

There are numerous things however that you can do to minimize the stress that your pet might feel.

If your pet is afraid of visitors, you can separate him in a different room away from the noise with all the comforts he may need. If your home is too small, you can either leave him with a friend that he knows for the day, board him or use natural calming agents that contain anything from casein (the protein of milk), tryptophan (an amino acid) to valerian root and catnip.

Watch out for toxic foods and plants. Everyone knows that chocolate and raisins are toxic to pets, but so are many other house plants. Poinsettia has been overrated; it causes irritation but is not fatal. A complete list of toxic foods and plants for cats and dogs is available at

Most toxicities that I see in practice are accidental, the pet ate the food when no one was looking –always a risk in the bustle of holiday activities! Store your food where your pet will not have access to it.

Christmas decorations can be very dangerous.  Not a holiday season goes by when we do not have to do an emergency surgery on a cat that swallowed tinsel or a gift packing ribbon. I remember once a dog that had swallowed the metal clip that holds ornamental Christmas balls, it was stuck in the esophagus and I had to take it out through an incision into his stomach. Puppies and kitten love to chew on electrical cords and this can lead to severe electrical shock and burns in the mouth. If you have a curious young pet, protect your electrical cords with plastic sleeves made for that purpose. I have seen them sold at dollar stores and at IKEA.

Leaving your cat behind at home for a few days.  Although cats may appear to be independent, they really need human contact. Even if someone comes in to feed your cat while you are gone twice a day, it is still very traumatic for him to be there all by himself. Besides the stress it will cause, there can be significant danger as well. I have often hospitalized cats that stopped eating and became ill, because the owner left them with no close supervision. I also remember a case where a cat was left alone in the house over the weekend by the owner. Being bored the cat started playing with the curtain cord, but ended up hanging himself by his jaw. When the cat was brought in all I could do was humanely euthanize him. So whatever arrangements you make, for your furry little friend please do not leave your cat or cats all alone in the house.

The holidays are a very happy period with lots of fun and laughter. Let your pet benefit from them as well. Take your dog for a few extra walks.

Use the ribbons to play with your cat, but just remember to put them away safely far from reach. Remember that at Animal 911 we have beautiful windowed multi-level condos for cats, in which they will be able to watch the outside world from the safety of their penthouse.

Have a safe and happy holiday season!

By Dr. Wybranowski, B.Sc, DVM, CCRT

Staffed by caring professionals, Animal 911 Hôpital Vétérinaire is endorsed by their many pets – starting with Dr. W and his four cats: Bubbles, Misia, Bisous and Duszek. Dr. Wybranowski – (Dr. W. for short) has been actively building their practice and range of expertise for 30 years – from his early start in a one-room practice from his home.