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Tips for Getting Kids and Pets Along During the Holidays

December 15 2023

Happy Holidays! As the holiday season approaches, our calendars will surely be filled with festive gatherings to plan for. Children often look forward to this time of year with great anticipation. Kids and pets can make an adorable pair and form strong bonds quickly. However, with little ones involved, there may also be some mishaps or misunderstandings. To help keep the peace during this special time, we have some valuable advice from a Conway, SC vet. Keep reading for tips on how to ensure a harmonious holiday season for both young children and furry friends.

Help Things Get Started On The Right Paw 

First impressions are crucial for Fluffy and Fido! Our furry buddies 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, let your canine pal sniff the kids’ hands. Be on alert here. If Fido seems agitated or uneasy, separate them. 

Fluffy will introduce herself when she’s ready. Don’t force her. (Note: one of the first things kids should know about cats is that you can’t force them to do anything.)

Tip: A walk or play session will help your furry friend burn off those zoomies, so they’ll be calmer after. 

Safety Tips For Kids And Pets

Safety should always come first here. The most important thing is to carefully monitor all interactions. Never leave kids and pets unattended, at least until you’re sure that things will be fine. 

Some of this of course depends on the pet and the kid. If your cat wants to sleep in your eight-year old’s lap as they’re reading, it’s probably safe to say you have a cute moment on your hands, rather than a safety risk. A large, intact male dog interacting with a toddler is a very different situation, and one that would need extremely careful monitoring. Use your judgment.  

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

It’s important to note that kids are more likely to get bitten by a dog than adults. This is likely due to their smaller size and their tendency to move quickly and make loud/high-pitched noises.

Obviously, larger dogs pose a greater risk than small ones, but the most important factor is Fido’s personality. Some pups are bombproof, and will barely bat an eye if a child falls on top of them or uses them as a pillow. Other pups are more high-strung, and have much shorter fuses. However, even the sweetest dog can bite if they feel threatened, and even a Pomeranian bite can result in injury.

Last but not least, if your dog is fearful, reactive, or aggressive, you should take extra precautions. If you have just adopted a dog, please be extra cautious because you may not be familiar with Fido’s quirks and pet peeves yet. For more information, contact your Conway, SC area veterinarian.

Decorating: Safety Protocols For Kids And Pets

In general, anything that is small and sharp should be considered a choking hazard. Other hazards include ropy or stringy items, such as tinsel, garlands, popcorn strings, lights, and ribbons, fragile ornaments, and plastic wrappers or ties. Candles should also be kept in high, secure spots out of reach of pets and children. If you have a fireplace, make sure the grate is thick.

You should also decorate your tree carefully. Keep shiny and breakable ornaments, as well as anything with strings or ropes, at the top. (We’ll discuss Fluffy’s annual tradition of climbing the tree on another day.)

Know What Holiday Plants Can Be Toxic

While pretty seasonal plants can add to the warm and festive ambiance of a room or home, they can also pose a threat to children and pets. While older kids are less likely to consume houseplants, parents should be extra cautious with toddlers. Many popular holiday plants, like poinsettias, holly, ivy, mistletoe, and peace lilies are harmful to both cats and dogs. If you display these plants in your home, make sure they are placed in secure areas that are out of reach. For further guidance on plant safety, seek advice from a veterinarian in the Conway, SC region.

Gifts For Kids And Pets Should Be Kept Separate

Many kids’ toys are dangerous to pets. That includes small items, such as action figures, batteries, small accessories, toy cars, puzzle pieces … the list goes on. Additionally, if you have a dog, be careful with stuffed animals. Our canine pals love plushie toys! If Fido becomes fixated on your niece’s new teddy bear, it could result in chaos. To prevent any issues, it is best to keep children’s gifts out of paws’ reach. It might also be wise to offer your four-legged buddy a few new toys to keep them occupied.

Holiday Foods: Concerns For Pets And Kids

Those mouth-watering dishes are often the highlight of celebratory gatherings. There are some concerns here as well. For little ones, treats like hard candies, nuts, and your aunt’s renowned fruitcake can be choking hazards. However, pets are primarily the ones in danger here. Many traditional holiday favorites, such as garlic, onion, chocolate, avocado, grapes, and raisins, are toxic to our cherished furry friends, as are meat on the bone, anything with seeds/pits, raw dough, things that contain Xylitol (also known as birch sugar), as well as foods high in salt, sugar or fat.

Keep an eye out during mealtimes. Kids may offer ‘goodies’ to their furry friends without realizing what is and isn’t safe for Fido and Fluffy.

Helping Interactions Go Smoothly With Kids And Pets

Good manners are important on both sides here. Ensure Fido knows basic commands like Sit, Stay, and Come. Children can be taught to gently offer treats to their pets, but they may need to be shown how to hold them properly. With dogs, that means palms up, fingers outstretched. When it comes to cats, you can just put it down before Fluffy.

It’s also important for kids to understand that, when petting Fluffy and Fido, you should always go in the direction of their fur, and avoid pulling their tails, ears, or whiskers. Another golden rule? Never force attention on a pet.

Make sure your furry pals have a comfortable place to retreat. For cats, this could be a kitty condo or a spot under the bed. For dogs, this could be a crate or a petproofed room separated by a gate. Don’t ignore your pet, or make them feel isolated: that may lead to resentment.

Whether you have a question about your pet’s health or care, please feel free to contact us. As your Conway, SC  area veterinary clinic, we’re here to help.

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