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How to Have a Holiday Party Without Setting the Cat on Fire

Important Tips for Keeping Pets Safe During Holiday Parties from Richmond VA Petsitter's Blog |

Holidays are a wonderful time of the year — with trees being decorated, presents being bought and wrapped, special meals and goodies being prepared and parties being planned. Busy, busy times!

If you have pets, you are already aware that they can do the unexpected during the holidays. I could always tell by the gleam in my cat’s eye that he was going to propel himself into the middle of the Christmas tree!

When that happened the ornaments went flying, so the learning experience was to leave the tree undecorated for a few days so the cats could explore, sniff and climb in it. Once the ornaments went on the tree, the cats seemed to lose interest except for the ornaments on the lower branches. So we only put ornaments that would not break near the bottom.

And if you are blessed with a dog with a strong tail that wags all the time, you know that the ornaments can go flying every time the dog walks by the tree, so you end up with a rather funny looking one thanks to all the pet’s interaction with it. We solved this problem by changing to “half” trees that hang on the wall. Pets can’t reach them, they take up no floor space and they are just as festive as a more traditional tree. I have three — one with a Mickey Mouse theme, one with a nautical theme and one with more traditional decorations.

A Few Tips For Keeping Pets Safe During Holiday Parties

Holiday parties and pets are always problematic. If your pets have free run of the house and are used to greeting anyone coming to the door you have several choices. Many dogs bolt at the door and see that as their opportunity to escape, so keeping your dog on a leash while the guests are arriving is a good safety plan.

You can also confine your pets to another room with a sign to warn guests that pets are behind the door: Do Not Enter. The main goal is for the guests to be able to enter your home without being attacked by jumping and/or bolting dogs or cats! If a dog or cat gets loose, the party is over. Everyone will be out looking for the lost pet! And remember, every guest is NOT animal person!

Once your guests have arrived and are busy with drinks and food, be sure that people know NOT to feed the pets anything you are serving. People can be easily swayed by big, brown, pleading eyes begging for a bite of that chocolate brownie, but chocolate is a serious no-no for animals.

Do not place dishes containing food or candy within reach of pets. When no one is looking, the dog will gladly help himself to whatever is of interest to him and people might think that is really cute! Some people also think it is fun to watch a dog get “tipsy” and will share their alcoholic drink with the dog. This is another major no-no!

And food served at low levels (ie coffee table height) is an invitation for cats to jump up and drag their tails through the delicious treats.. Trust me, few guests want to eat pet hair! And be sure you have planned to properly collect and dispose of used dishes, glasses, cups and food when the party’s over. Place somewhere so that the pets won’t get into the trash and pull out something that can make them very ill.

Last, but not least — be wary of candles! Many years ago, my son was having a small gathering of friends during the holidays. He had it all planned … fondue, wine, dessert, soft lights, music and of course candlelight. My husband and I had gone out for the evening and when we got home, expecting the house to be busy with activity, no one was there except my son.

“What happened?”

Well, the story was that the group had gone into the kitchen to help Mickey with the food and when they returned to the living room, they were horrified to see my chinchilla Persian cat standing on the coffee table with his tail sitting atop the candle — in flames!

Of course Mickey freaked out, ran the cat to the sink, put out all the candles and everyone was so shaken by the “flaming cat” that the party ended very quickly. You know what burning hair smells like. Fortunately, Persians have extremely long hair on their tails so the fire, thankfully, never got to skin. At the time it was a horrible experience, but now we can chuckle about the aborted romantic evening!!

These tips for keeping the holidays and parties safe for your pets are not shared to deter festivities. We love parties. I just encourage you to plan carefully so you can have a fun party that include your pets and is safe for all.

Hint: Use battery powered candles!


PS – As a precaution, prepare for a worst case scenario in case of pet health emergencies during the holiday.  Make sure you collect phone numbers — land line and cell — and post to fridge and store in your smart phone so you won’t panic if needed.  Here are the three we recommend you keep handy:

  1. Your vet’s number
  2. The local 24/7 emergency animal hospital
  3. The poison hot line manned by the ASPCA – 888-426-4435. (There is a consultation fee of $65)

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Author: Carole

Carole Tomas is the owner and president of Pet Pleasers, Inc. She is a graduate of Ohio University and a Charter Member of the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters. When she began Pet Pleasers in 1985, business was conducted Old School via a landline, snail mail and an answering machine the size of a breadbox. No internet, email, text messaging, digital photos, social media or mobile phones! What has remained constant over three decades: Carole’s love of animals and an unwavering passion for professional pet sitting.

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