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MARY JO NAGY | Pets Holidays affect animals, too



Published: Sun, November 4, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



People often question whether animals have feelings. Since they are living, breathing beings that can experience hunger and pain, then the answer is a resounding "yes."

At no other time of this year do you see such extremes in emotional states than during the holidays. You fell an array of emotions from anxiety about shopping, to elation over a present, to happiness over sharing with family members.

If feelings change for people, why not a dog or cat? Your pet is a member of your family, and you may see a change in behavior this time of the year.

Hectic shopping can leave your pooch alone more often than during the rest of the year. A dog that is used to having people around and is now left alone until the stores close may begin some unpopular habits.

You may find a variety of household items chewed. This may be in part from lack of exercise or boredom. An otherwise housebroken dog that is left too long may urinate on the carpets or on yur bed.

Also, if you forget to change the litter box, you will have problems with your cat.

What to do: Don't overdo the shopping routine. Schedule shopping sprees when other family members can be home with your pet or shop for a shorter time.

Your pet doesn't understand why it is being left alone. Contrary to popular belief, pets are not getting back at you for leaving them; they experience what is termed "separation anxiety."

They do what comes naturally: i.e., chewing, barking or soiling. And they are definitely not plotting against you. Try to make time for a walk with the dog or lap time with the cat.

For those who enjoy baking and cooking for the multitude of guests coming to visit, remember your pet smells these wonderful aromas, too. Don't leave cookies, candy and baked goods out for your pet to be tempted.

A pet that has never touched your stove or countertop may now be able to help himself to that turkey leg.

Pets can get sick over table scraps. My dog, "Chief," once ate 8 ounces of chocolate that I thought was put out of reach. I then spent needlesss time and money worrying about his getting sick and getting a checkup at the veterinarian's office. If it had been baker's chocolate, it could have been fatal.

Feeling sick is not fun for anyone during the holidays. If you do hand out table scraps to your pets, keep it light.

Potential danger: How about all those new decorations hanging around the house? Exploring electric lights, bulbs or a tree is fun for an animal. Many years ago, my aunt's dog chewed an electric window candle.

The results were disastrous. He suffered from burns that took out one side of his mouth. He not only went though a lot of pain (he recovered to live a long, happy life) but the entire family was depressed during the holidays. His inquisitive nature led him to injury, so be careful with all the decorations.

Do visits from new and familiar people affect our furry friends? Most pets love to greet new people and enjoy the head, ear and belly rubs. However, people coming in and out of the house from Thanksgiving to New Year's for gathering and parties may make some pets nervous.

Some animals may be so jumpy that guests are put off. A pet underfoot that is not used to guests can cause accidents or injuries. Others may be too protective when people enter your home. Know your pet's behavior and act appropriately.

You will need to keep the very protective dog in another room or quiet area away from the guests. This will prevent dog bites and aggressive behaviors. Also remember to be careful not to let your dog or cat escape out the door. A lost pet is a sad pet.

What happens with kids: Children can be a great source of fun for a pet or they can be annoying. Animals that have been around children will be used to fast movement and loud voices. Pets that are not accustomed to being chased by children may be fearful and hide. An animal that feels cornered may growl as a warning or bite. Again, know your pet's behavior.

Pets love attention, just like people. They love new toys. They purr or roll over to be petted. They do not like to be left alone or ignored. As a family member, a pet wants to share its day the same as everyone else.

Pets may not talk about what they do, but they do show their feelings through their behaviors.

Keep in mind that the holidays are stressful and exciting for all of us. Take time out for the things that are important. The holidays come and go, but your pets are for a lifetime.

XMary Jo Nagy is a volunteer with Angels for Animals.




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