Tue, December 23, 2008
Lifestyle > Society > Tips on stylish Christmas

Christmas survival guide: Pets

2008-12-23 07:50:42 GMT2008-12-23 15:50:42 (Beijing Time)  SINA.com

Our panel of experts advises on how to cope with pets, family, eating and indulgence so that everyone can enjoy the festivities.

As the saying goes, a dog (or any animal) is not just for Christmas. Pets are family, and if Christmas is a time for celebrating togetherness, then our animals must be included. Seasonal indulgence in food, drink and the giving of dubious presents usually extends to the nation’s pets. Dogs may be bought ill-fitting winter coats or flashing reindeer horns and cats hightech virtual mice or exotic treats. But be prepared for disappointment. Bear in mind, it is usually the wrappings that are appreciated by cats more than the contents.

Christmas for dogs is always more fun than for cats. Most dogs enjoy the comings and goings of people, leisure time for walks, long evenings and late mornings. Cats usually hate these disturbances to their routine and need protecting from the noise of children’s toys and computer games. Both cats and dogs can be scared by Christmas crackers. So a cat needs a safe and quiet place to retreat from Christmas festivities, or she will take the “manger in someone else’s stable” option.

Some parents may have bought their children a puppy, kitten or hamster for Christmas. These animals will have been traumatised by the move from breeder or pet store to home, so they will need the highest standard of care, and their welfare depends upon the five essential freedoms being satisfied. Apart from food and water, animals need comfort, health, space to express their normal behaviour and freedom from fear or distress. Remember how much of a responsibility and how timeconsuming this is before you rush to buy a pet.

For a highly specialised animal such as a reptile or bird, there are books to buy, DVDs to watch and the internet to browse. Each of us has to be an expert in the species we choose to keep, which is why pet stores and veterinary surgeries with wellinformed staff and libraries are the place for parents to visit before committing to any animals.

Too often, the Christmas pet becomes the unwanted animal for re-homing in the New Year. Sensible parents work hard to ensure that there is a definite commitment by their children to care for pets, for all of their lives and not just while the animal is a novelty.

The Christmas season does at least give our pets the human company they crave. Make a New Year’s resolution: give them more of your time and make their lives more interesting. Boredom and oneliness are penalties that too many sociable pets have to endure.

Roger Mugford

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