Almost Perfect Holidays: Keeping Holiday Homes Safe for Disabled Pets During the Festive Season

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Owners of disabled pets are, by necessity, a bit more in tune with their home’s physical surroundings than most others. But at this festive time of year, important details may be overlooked in the rush to get the house decorated. Here are a few tips for making sure every holiday home is safe for all its residents this year.

Owners of disabled pets are, by necessity, a bit more in tune with their home’s physical surroundings than most others. But at this festive time of year, important details may be overlooked in the rush to get the house decorated. Here are a few tips for making sure every holiday home is safe for all its residents this year.

“We need to look at the ways our individual homes change over the holidays, and analyze how these changes will affect our special needs pets,” says Mary Shafer, editor of “Almost Perfect: Disabled Pets and the People Who Love Them.” (http://www.almostperfectbook.com) The 128-page softcover book is a new anthology of true-life tales of people who rescued animals with physical challenges, thinking they were doing the pets a favor. As it turns out, these folks realize the animals are inspirational blessings and unexpected gifts themselves.

For instance, says Shafer, everyone loves hanging decorations and making their homes beautiful. But a stray bit of heavy tinsel or garland can easily become tangled in the wheels of a mobility cart worn by pets whose partial paralysis prevents them from walking unaided. If such decorations are used, a quick sweep through the area a few times a day can ensure nothing is dragging on the floor where it can become a hazard for wheelies.

Similarly, many people re-arrange their furniture to accommodate a Christmas tree for a few weeks. It may be a greatly anticipated ritual or even a minor inconvenience for the people of the household, but such a move can drastically disorient blind pets or those with balance issues. Owners of households whose furniture gets seasonally rearranged can simply walk their blind or vertigo-challenged pet through the area, making it aware of the new traffic pattern. This will usually acclimate them to the change.

The extra foot traffic caused by holiday parties or drop-in guests can be a challenge even for non-disabled pets. But aside from common stress or anxiety issues this can cause, the extra feet and legs in normally empty rooms can turn into a dangerous obstacle course for blind pets and even those with hearing impairment, who can’t hear anyone approaching from behind. Since one can’t depend on guests who aren’t used to living around animals to be aware of small critters underfoot, it’s best to keep pets safely behind a bedroom or other door for the duration of the special event.

Many folks say, “Oh, but Fluffy is very social! She loves people.” But it’s not a matter of sociability, it’s a matter of awareness and safety. Don’t put Fluffy in a position to get inadvertently stepped on or tripped over. It’s better to avoid the potential mess, injury and uncomfortable feelings altogether by simply keeping pets and guests separate. If someone really wants to say hi to a favorite pet, offer to take them to where the animal is for a visit.

Of course, party hosts will want to make sure that sequestered pets are safe and comfortable while everyone enjoys the party. Dogs should be walked or let out immediately before the arrival of guests, and perhaps taken outside to do their business again later, if it’s a long-duration event. They should have soft, warm beds to lie on and a few favorite toys to keep them occupied. Cats should have access to a litter box, comfortable sleeping places and a toy or two. All animals, at the owners' discretion, should have a small bowl of food or at least water, and it’s a good idea to check on them once or twice while guests are visiting just to make sure everything is okay.

There will always be the inevitable mishaps; dropped and smashed glass ornaments, broken glasses, dropped ornament hangers. Though anyone with kids or pets of any sort would want to clean these accidents up immediately, there’s the need to be especially thorough around disabled pets. Air-filled tires on wheeled carts and soft paw pads are vulnerable to jagged shards missed and left behind. Also, non-sighted animals tend to walk along room perimeters more than in the open, which is where these kinds of hazards usually hide.

Of course, the usual rules apply to all pets: No people food, especially spicy things that could upset their systems; make sure any holiday plants are safe and not poisonous, or are truly out of reach of pets; and don’t leave lit candles unattended, especially around curious cats. Blind cats may be attracted by the hiss and pop of a burning wick, which could have disastrous results.

“Really, the best thing to do is just make sure your pet is aware of the changes you make in their surroundings. And be sure to spend time acclimating them to an acceptable level of comfort,” says Shafer. “Then the holidays can be safe and enjoyable for everyone.”

“Almost Perfect,” published by Enspirio House, an imprint of Word Forge Books, retails for $12.95 and is available online at http://www.almostperfectbook.com, by toll-free phone order at 888-320-9673 or from local booksellers.

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MARY SHAFER
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