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Keep pets out of harm’s way on holiday
Turkey Day is on the way, and that can mean trouble for many household pets. To prepare for a feast and family gathering without pet- related problems, you need to consider how your animals are around people (particularly crowds and children, and perhaps strangers), and how they are around food. Since many felines are shy around visitors, these cats might be much happier in the privacy of a quiet room. No need exposing them to lots of people, especially children, who may want to pet and handle them. Increasing their exposure to potentially threatening and fear- provoking encounters usually only aggravates their fearful tendencies. Cats who like to dash out the door can be handled in the same way. There's no need having to worry about your cat escaping amidst the many comings and goings of guests, when she or he can be safely confined. Cats that play very rough and bite should also be put away. All of these problems can be effectively treated, but with the holiday so close, avoiding the problem is your best bet at this point. If you're going away and leaving your cat home, be sure to change the litter so that it's nice and clean, and to leave out plenty of fresh food and water. When it comes to dogs, the problems tend to get bigger. People coming into your home can face a wide range of reactions from dogs. There are dogs that greet guests by jumping on them (this is especially problematic with small or frail people, e.g., children and older adults). Other dogs greet people by peeing on them. There are many who bark incessantly (usually out of fear), and there are those who bark, growl, and/or bite (from protectiveness, territoriality, fear, or dominance). And, of course, there are others who are perfectly wonderful. If you have one of these, you should truly be thankful! Bad reactions at the door often lead to further incidents once the visitors are in the house. If you have a dog who behaves badly at the door or becomes nervous/irritable around people, consider keeping him/her out back or in another room till everyone's arrived, if not for the duration of the evening. Chow hounds, beggars, and thieves (and particularly dogs who become aggressive around food) should also be isolated. Dogs can become quite bold with so much food around, and there will certainly be ample opportunity for them to get into trouble on a holiday like Thanksgiving. You'll undoubtedly be too busy to supervise them effectively. And besides, everyone loves to feed the dog; and everyone thinks "a little bit won't hurt him," but when you multiply that by 10 or 20 or more people, it can take its toll on a dog's digestive system. People having ham (or other high fat foods) should be warned that large amounts, or even small in some cases, can lead to bouts of pancreatitis in dogs. Little kids are often the victims of dog bites for a variety of reasons. Some kids torment dogs, kicking, punching and pulling them. Others may just put their face right in the dog's face. And you can expect your holiday to be promptly ruined if anyone is bitten. If you see or suspect that children in your home will behave this way, remember -- avoiding that one bad traumatic incident can prevent future fear and aggression problems in your dog. So give your dog some extra exercise, a filling meal, and get him away from the chaos that will surely ensue. And have a very happy Thanksgiving. Just a story about a special dog I know. Her name is Kimba. She is a 14 year old German Shepherd who is on her last leg. She has crippling arthritis, and still she manages to perform a marvelous task that she did one day when she was nine and continued to perform without any training on her owner's behalf. Whenever Kimba's owners' grandchildren would visit, Kimba took on the role of baby monitor. If a baby were inside sleeping, when the baby awoke and began crying, Kimba would find her owners (who were often in the back yard by the pool), and alert them with a bark. She could do this whether inside or out, as her hearing ability far surpassed that of her owners. Needless to say, Kimba is a much valued and loved dog. Do you have or know an animal with a special talent or trait? Let me know about it, and I'd be glad to share your stories with other readers.