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Holiday Tips For Helping Kids And Pets Get Along

December 15, 2023

Happy Holidays! The upcoming weeks will surely be jam-packed for most of us, with all of those festive seasonal get-togethers to prepare for. For many children, the holiday season is the highlight of the year. Kids and pets make an adorable combination, and can quickly become best buddies. But with little ones involved, mishaps, mischief, and misunderstandings may also arise. That’s why in this informative piece we share some valuable advice on how to ensure a harmonious holiday season for both young children and furry pals. Read on for some tips on this from a Jefferson, IA area vet.

Introducing Kids And Pets

Some things we’re touching on here will vary a bit, depending on whether these are your pets and your kids, your pets and someone else’s kids, or your kids and someone else’s pets. With the latter two, introductions are a big deal. First impressions are crucial to Fluffy and Fido! 

Our canine pals get much of their information about the world through their cute noses. If your kids are still using strollers or car seats, let Fido smell those first. Then, allow Fido to sniff the little ones’ hands during introductions. Keep a close eye on things here. If Fido seems uneasy or agitated, separate the two. Don’t punish him for acting nervous: that will only make matters worse.  

As for cats, well, Fluffy will introduce herself when she’s ready. Don’t force it! (One of the first things kids should learn about our feline pals: you can never force a kitty to do anything, except perhaps by telling her not to.) 

Kids And Pets: Safety Tips

Safety should always come first when it comes to interactions between kids and pets. Carefully monitor all interactions. 

Dogs are the bigger safety concern here, though kitties can still cause injuries with those sharp claws. Kids can also harm smaller animals by holding or picking them up wrong. (They can also cause injuries by falling on them, though there really aren’t many foolproof ways to prevent that.)

It’s important to note that kids are more often victims of dog bites than adults. This is likely due to their smaller size and their tendency to move quickly and make loud/high-pitched noises, which can unsettle Fido. 

Larger dogs of course pose more of a risk than small ones, but at the end of the day it’s really Fido’s personality that matters most. Some pups are bombproof, and will barely bat an eye if a little one falls right on top of them or uses them as a pillow. Other pooches are more high-strung, and have much shorter fuses. However, even a Chihuahua bite can result in injury.

Keep in mind that tired pets are good pets. Help your furry pal burn off those zoomies with a vigorous play session before company arrives.

As a final note, if your dog is fearful, reactive, and/or aggressive, you should take extra precautions. We also recommend being super careful with newly adopted dogs, as you may not be familiar with Fido’s quirks and pet peeves yet. For more information, speak with your Jefferson, IA area veterinarian.

Safety Protocols For Kids And Pets When Decorating

For the most part, the same protocols should apply to both kids and pets. Anything small and sharp should be considered a choking hazard. As a general rule of thumb, anything smaller than the hole in a toilet paper roll should be considered unsafe. Ropy or stringy items are also a hazard. That includes items such as tinsel, garlands, popcorn strings, lights, and ribbons should be avoided. Fragile ornaments should also be avoided.

Fire is another concern. Keep candles in high, secure spots, where neither pets or kids can reach them. If you have a fireplace, use a thick grate in front of it.

As a note for pet owners, we also recommend decorating the tree carefully. Don’t put anything small or fragile at the bottom. Ornaments that are shiny and/or breakable should be at the top, along with anything with strings or ropes. To be on the safe side, it’s also a good idea to cover the water bowl. (We’ll save Fluffy’s annual tradition of climbing the tree for another blog.)

Use Caution With Plants

Seasonal plants can certainly enhance the festive, cozy atmosphere of any room or home. However, some of them can be harmful to both children and pets. Although older kids probably aren’t going to consume houseplants, you’ll need to be cautious with toddlers here. Some common holiday plants that are particularly dangerous include poinsettias, holly, ivy, mistletoe, and peace lilies, which are deadly to cats. If you do choose to have these plants in your home, be sure to keep them in secure locations out of easy reach. For more information on plant safety, consult your Jefferson, IA area veterinarian.

Keep Kids’ And Pets’ Gifts Separate

Kids’ gifts can pose a hazard to pets. Small items like action figures, batteries, small accessories, toy cars, and other tiny things can be dangerous. If you have a dog, you’ll also need to be cautious with stuffed animals. Our canine companions tend to be drawn to plushie toys. If Fido hones in on your niece’s new teddy bear, you could end up with a ruckus. Keep kids’ gifts out of paws’ reach. It’s also a good idea to distract your four-legged pal by offering a few new toys for them to occupy themselves with.

Seasonal Foods

While these delectable dishes are often the star of festive gatherings, they may also pose a danger. For young children, foods like hard candies, nuts, and your aunt’s infamous fruitcake can be choking hazards. However, for the most part, pets are at higher risk here. Many holiday favorites, including garlic, onion, chocolate, avocado, grapes, and raisins, are poisonous to our beloved pets. Other items to keep away from Fido and Fluffy include meat on the bone, raw dough, anything with seeds or pips, and items that contain high levels of Xylitol (also sometimes called birch sugar) or salt, sugar, or fat.

One concern here is the fact that kids may attempt to share ‘goodies’ with their furry pals, often without realizing what is and isn’t safe for Fido and Fluffy. This innocent mistake may lead to tragic results. Keep a close eye on things at mealtimes.

Encourage Good Manners

Good manners are important on both sides here. Make sure that Fido knows basic commands like Sit, Stay, and Come. Children can be taught to gently offer a treat, but they may need to be shown how to hold it properly. For dogs, that means palms up, fingers outstretched. For cats, you can usually just put it down before Fluffy. 

Kids may need to be taught that you should never force attention on Fluffy and Fido. You may also need to explain that you should always go in the direction of their fur when petting them, and avoid pulling their tails, ears, or whiskers. 

If your pet seems uneasy, make sure they have a comfortable place to retreat to. For a cat, this could be a kitty condo or a spot under the bed. For Fido, this could be a crate or a petproofed room separated by a gate. 
We wish you all a wonderful holiday season! If you have any questions about your pet’s health or care, please feel free to contact us. As your Jefferson, IA area veterinary clinic, we’re here to help!