Pets and Christmas – Friends for Life?

A dog is for life not just for Christmas - (C) Dogs TrustA dog is for life not just for Christmas.  This is the  phrase that has become forever associated with the practice of giving pets of all sorts as gifts during the festive season.  The slogan was invented by the Dogs Trust, a UK based dog charity, in 1978 and has been annually prominent ever since then.  Though mentioning dogs, the lesson behind the message is just as poignant for any creature that might be considered a pet, as well meaning, but ultimately thoughtless, individuals think to give cute puppies, kittens or even hamsters as presents at this time of year. 

It’s obvious to anyone with a bit of thought that animals make very bad presents.  As living, breathing creatures dogs, cats and others can experience a range of emotions and feelings.  Just as a pet can come to show love or affection to its owners, so too can they become frightened, scared or aggressive.  This is especially the case during the festive season where celebrations and parties leading up to fireworks on New Year can terrify and stress and animals.  Truly the festive period is probably one of the very worst times to introduce a new friend into the household. 

A Commitment of a Lifetime

Looking at the presents we might expect to get over Christmas, we can see year on year how consumerism has greatly taken over the holiday.  Our new possessions are made with limitations in mind – there’s only so much whiskey in the bottle or that new gadget will only last a few years at best before breaking down and needing to be replaced. 

But nobody invented a dog that only lasted six months.

Pets are an ongoing commitment.  With proper care and attention, dogs and cats can easily live well into their upper teenage years.  The record holder for oldest dog, according to the Guiness Book of Records for the Worlds, is held by Bluey, an Australian Cattle Dog who lived an incredible 29 years and 5 months.  

Even going by the more conservative estimate of 10-15 years of life, a dog bought as a pet for a child can still be around when the young person has grown up and left home.  Even a smaller pet like a rat, gerbil or hamster, can easily stretch to a 3-4 year commitment which will fall upon the adult of the household.  Getting a pet is something that needs to involve the whole family and can’t be bought with the same thought as a computer game or a stocking filler. 

Having a Pet-Friendly Christmas

Even if you do agree to go ahead and add a furry friend to your family this Christmas, there are a lot of things to keep in mind if they are to integrate safely into your home over the holidays.  Care of the pet needs to be agreed – who will be responsible for feeding it and when?  And, while cats can mostly take care of themselves, somebody needs to walk the dog.  Lastly, while nobody wants to think about it, what goes into a pet comes out in the end and the toiletry needs of the animal, whether a litter tray, cleaning out the cage or a trip into the garden, needs to be thought about.

Aside from year round concerns, the festive period requires special attention to a few other matters.  It’s common, for example, for guests and visitors to come around or parties to be held, which can be alternatively exciting or terrifying for any pets. This means that arrangements should be made for them to have somewhere to retreat to that they regard as safe when they are tired or simply frightened.  Another concern is the proliferation of treats and snacks, many of which can be harmful to pets.  Theobromine, a stimulant found in chocolate is especially poisonous to dogs, even fatal, as are raisins.

Responsible owners should be wary of:

  • Excitable guests, especially children, around pets
  • Wrapping paper and plastic left unattended near animals
  • Fireworks, Bonfires and other celebratory devices
  • Loud music and noise
  • Leaving foodstuffs unattended and accessible by animals.
  • Leaving animals alone for long periods while attending events hosted by others.
  • Making sure that the dog gets a walk on Christmas Day – that’s one chore you’re not excused from!

Animal Behaviour and Psychology Courses

Perhaps you’d like to understand animals a bit better.  If so, ADL offers a range of courses in animal care and psychology that may be of interest to you.  From dogs, to cats, horses and others, both exotic and domestic, ADL has a range of courses that can help you understand your beloved pets better whether you simply want to get along better with your faithful hound or start a new career in a cat shelter. 




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