Things change at Christmas time - new people come to your house with strange new things, you rearrange furniture, add new things like trees, get more tired, and pay less attention.

All these things can confuse your animal companion causing them to do things they ordinarily wouldn’t do, and also bring harm to themselves.

Since it has been my fate to learn from experience, sometimes vicariously, sometimes straight-on, I’ll include examples which I hope this article will keep you from having to experience.

1. Keep careful track of visitors’ possessions.

People bring all sorts of things in their suitcases and purses, like nitroglycerine and sleeping pills. Keep purses and luggage up off the floor, and in the case of cats, closed and latched.

Or you’ll end up at the vet’s, as I did one year, when Thisbe smelled chocolate (Ex Lax) in my mother’s suitcase and ingested enough to kill her, said the vet, who was surprised she survived.

Or your dog may, for reasons known only to him, urinate in your father-in-law’s suitcase, marking I suppose, though he knew better!

2. Pay attention to the gifts under the tree.

People wrap food dogs can smell that you can’t, but then again it doesn’t have to be food. Chucky tore open packages of bath powder, perfume and bath salts as well. If you catch Fido nosing around, remove the package to somewhere safe.

Chocolate is a special culprit. It contains theobromine which is poisonous to animals.

3. Keep your animal companion on their regular regime and diet.

Don’t, like me, carve the rib roast tossing the fat down to Shy Nell, then carry it in to the table, begin the feast, and have Shy Nell enter the dining room and proceed to vomit it all up, sending one of your guests to the restroom. Try working that into the dinner table conversation!

4. Protect your animal companion from new people and vice versa.

Guests can agitate and excite your pet so they get in trouble, do bizarre things, and also harm people.

There are people like me who don’t know what they’re doing, stick their hand in the bird cage to acquaint themselves with your Macaw, and … “the Macaw uses its bill to score and then, in steel-cutter fashion, shear the nuts in two so cleanly that the cut surfaces resemble the work of a metal-cutting saw or laser …” and it’s ho-ho-ho, off to the emergency room we go.

5. Don’t let your pet eat all gifts that are presented!

The houseguest from hell, I brought homemade dog biscuits for my relative’s Labs, which they duly ate … and we were all up all night as the dogs struggled with fulminating diarrhea.

6. As my cousin and his wife settled down for after-dinner drinks at a festive dinner given to impress his boss, Weisschen, the regal Persian, rolled into the living room and proceeded to hack up … poinsettia leaves. Holly and mistletoe are poisonous to both humans and animals and poinsettia, though not technically poisonous, doesn’t sit well. Keep them out of your pet’s reach.

7. Watch your animal pet around the Christmas tree.

Woody was sick the week before Christmas. We didn’t know why, but he sickened and paled, and soon we were off to the vet’s … for major surgery costing $1,000, and which yielded 3’ of tinsel, pulled from his intestines. That stuff (and many other things on the tree) is made of metal. Many pets try and ingest the pine needles that fall.

8. Secure your tree.

This is for your protection, so if the cat decides to leap, or the dog is fascinated by some ornament, the whole tree doesn’t land on the floor. Also don’t put anything in the tree water as a “preservative” that could harm your pet.

9. Rabbits like to chew electrical cords.

Cover your cords with duct tape and get them out of the way as best you can.

10. Tranquilize your pet or tranquilize their environment.

Bing just got hyper when company came. Something else difficult to work into the dinner table conversation is when Bing gets up, ambles over, and tears the sleeve off your guest’s shirt. You can buy tranquilizers for your pet, or secure them in a special room, put them outdoors, or take them to the kennel if they’re the excitable type.

11. Guard against escapes!

Weejums who lived with us for a while, was always looking for his chance to escape, and the holidays were the most exciting time of the year for the little rascal. Oh the opportunities! If you have such a knave in your house, make sure they have their tags, and explain to the kids and to houseguests, to please take care when they enter and leave the house.

12. Talk to your houseguests, who are more under your “control,” and keep your eye out for your other guests.

Or your pet companion may end up with an injured tail and bad memories like Muff Tuff, who was sleeping near the rocking chair; or internal injuries and bad memories like Stan-the-Man, who got stepped on by someone wearing bifocals.

BOTTOM LINE: You’re busier and preoccupied, things change, it’s a good time to stop and think, for the safety of your animal companion. They’re counting on you! Be there for them at Christmas and all the year.

Author's Bio: 

©Susan Dunn, MA, The EQ Coach. Individual coaching, Internet courses and ebooks around emotional intelligence for your personal and professional development. Business programs. Coach certification program (no residency requirement). Mailto:sdunn@susandunn.cc for more information and fr** ezine.