Christmas is a very exciting time of year for the whole family… fur-family members included!  But it can also be an unfamiliar time, causing distress to our pets.  They don’t understand what’s going on when distant relatives come to visit, mouth-watering smells run through the house as the turkey cooks and the puddings steam, or why there’s tinsel around the banister and a new tree in the living room.  So to help your four-legged friend find their Christmas spirit, here are our top tips for a happy and healthy Christmas for all!

Friendly Festive Faces
Many of us use the festive season as an opportunity to see distant family members and friends that we haven’t seen in a long time.  If this is on your to-do list this Christmas, here are our pet-friendly suggestions:

  • Take your dog with you! If you’re travelling a long way, make sure you take regular stops to avoid any accidents in the car.  Always take water and a portable bowl to keep them hydrated, turn on the Christmas music (but not too loud) and be mindful of motion sickness.
  • If you take your pet with you to stay with friends or relatives, bring some of their favourite toys, blankets and food so they’ll have something that smells like home. And try to stick to their normal routine as much as possible too (feeding times and exercise).
  • If you leave your pets at home for the day, plan ahead and ask a neighbour or nearby relative to pop in and let them outside to stretch their legs. It can get quite lonely in an empty house so your dog or cat will enjoy the company, especially a familiar face.
  • If friends and family are coming to you this year, keep an eye on your pet as they may find several visitors, unfamiliar faces and an increased level of noise in their home very unsettling. It might take your pet a while to warm up to people they aren’t familiar with so introductions should go at your pet’s pace.  #RookesRecommends creating a few cosy corners for them to escape to (igloo beds in particular are ideal for cats in winter because they can hide away and snuggle down).
  • Whether you’re out visiting family or friends are coming to you this year, make sure they know the house rules! This includes what festive foods your pet can have and how much, and how to deter cheeky behaviour (you might find your pet tries pushing their luck at Christmas).

Tasty Treats – The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
Christmas is the season for giving, but there are some festive foods you should avoid giving to your pet, and it’s important your friends and family members know this too.  Here are some of the popular seasonal treats you dog or cat should not have:

  • Chocolate and sweets: While cats can’t taste sugar, chocolate is bad for most pets. The darker the chocolate, the more dangerous it can be as the cocoa contains the toxic chemicals, theobromine and xylitol.  Some sweets also contain xylitol (a sugar substitute) which is poisonous to dogs. Plus the small size of most sweets make them a choking hazard to animals.
  • Nuts: Not all nuts are dangerous to pets, but prolonged consumption can lead to serious health issues including pancreatitis.
  • Grapes and raisins: These are highly toxic to dogs and can cause kidney issues. So keep mince pies, Christmas pudding and fruit cake out of paw’s reach.
  • Onions, shallots, garlic, leeks and chives: These veggies are members of the allium family and can cause vomiting, diarrhoea and anaemia in pets so keep stuffing balls on your plate, not your pets.
  • Cooked bones: Not only are bones a choking hazard, but when cooked they lose their moisture and become brittle meaning they could splinter inside your pet if consumed and pierce their internal organs.
  • Alcohol and yeast: Pets can’t digest alcohol as quickly as we can so a small amount can be a big problem. Yeast in dough helps it rise, and when fermented it produces ethanol which can lead to alcohol poisoning.

There are some festive foods your pets can consume.  In fact, both dogs and cats love lean slithers of meat including turkey, chicken and ham (cooked and unseasoned), steamy vegetables (carrots, parsnips and sprouts), and tasty treats like a nibble or two of cheese.  But these foods should only be given to your pet in moderation – nobody wants to be clearing up a mess on the living room carpet at Christmas (or any time of year for that matter).  Whether they eat kibble, tinned or raw food, try to ensure your pets diet experiences minimal changes at Christmas to avoid a stomach upset.

Deck the Halls with (Artificial) Boughs of Holly
Festive favourites like holly, ivy, mistletoe and poinsettia are toxic to pets if digested so please keep them out of reach or use artificial plants to decorate your home instead.  Plus, needles from fir, spruce or pine Christmas trees can irritate your pet’s mouth, get stuck in their paws or cause an upset tummy if too many are eaten.

While we’re on the topic of Christmas trees, your pet might mistake them for a new toy and risk knocking it over and injuring themselves.  With that in mind it’s a good idea for pet owners to secure their tree to the wall and use a citrus spray around it to deter your curious cat or determined dog.  Decorative lights are also appealing to pets, but with the added danger of an electric shock, investing in a pre-lit tree is a safe alternative – there won’t be a lose cable or dangling string in sight!

Tinsel is usually harmless to pets, but if they consume a large chunk then it could get stuck in their stomach and you’ll need to make an emergency visit to the vet.  And, if you have delicate ornaments and baubles #RookesRecommends putting them higher up on the tree or on a raised shelf.  Refrain from putting chocolate decorations or presents on/under the tree too – your pet will sniff them out!

Keep Calm and Jingle All the Way
Perhaps your cat wants to escape the noise as the kids belt our Mariah Carey’s ‘‘All I want for Christmas’’ or maybe your dog enjoys keeping you company in the kitchen while you batch bake mince pies and sausage rolls? Whatever they’d prefer to do should be respected.

If your pet is looking for some of your attention (which is likely) then why not snuggle up on the sofa together and put on a Christmas film – Miracle on 34th Street, Elf or The Muppets Christmas Carole are all fine choices!

Your dog or cat might also appreciate a present of their own on Christmas Day (or even a pet friendly advent calendar in the lead up to Christmas) so treat them at Rooke’s this Christmas!  We have a range of festive plush toys and tasty treats they’ll love!

And while your pet is being spoilt this Christmas, spare a thought for those animals who are not so lucky. Consider visiting your local animal rescue centre to help those animals in need of blankets, toys and food at this chilly time of year.  Or, if you’re unable to get in a visit this year then a simple donation can go a long way in providing care for these animals over the holidays.


From our families to yours, we hope you all have a happy, safe and merry Christmas.  Ho ho ho!

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