Below is a series of photos I took of the bulletin board during my last trip to the shelter. Click to enlarge. For more information on missing pets, head to Lost & Found Pet Information on the Homeward Animal Shelter’s website.
Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa, the holiday season is ripe with health and safety hazards for house pets, from the decorations to the food to seasonal house plants. So before putting up a tree or candles or a nativity set, here are a few things to consider.
A rambunctious cat or dog could easily tip the Christmas tree over and possibly injure themselves. Make sure the tree is anchored securely, and if it’s nesting in water, don’t let your pets drink it, as the bacteria could make them sick.
If you have a pet that’s prone to chewing—a dog, a bird, a rabbit—don’t leave them alone near the tree, especially if you’ve sprayed it with fake snow, which is toxic to them. Keep an eye on holiday lights for any fraying or teeth marks. If an animal chomps down on a cord, it could cause tongue lacerations at best, electrocution at worst.
If you walk in on a pet chewing a cord, don’t panic and try to yank it out of their mouth; that could cause them to tighten their grip and get a shock. Instead, unplug the lights and then coax them into letting it go. Replace any damaged lights.
Bright, colorful ornaments may look pretty, but they can attract an animal’s destructive curiosity. Dogs may chew on them, cats may bat at them, or birds may dislodge them, which would be especially dangerous if the ornaments are breakable, have sharp edges, or are small enough to present a choking hazard. Your bird may look cute perched on the Christmas tree, but even if they’re well-behaved enough not to chew on anything, they could get poked by ornament hooks.
Plastic is the safest bet. Any ornaments made of glass, aluminum, or paper should be higher up on the tree where pets can’t reach them. Similarly, if you have candles on display, place them in a hard-to-reach spot so that pets can’t burn themselves or knock them over.
Tinsel, ribbons, and bows can be attractive to animals, especially cats, who like to bat them around. But they’re dangerous when nibbled or swallowed, as they twist and bunch up in the intestines and cause digestive blockage, which leads to severe vomiting and dehydration. If your pet has eaten tinsel or ribbons, contact your veterinarian immediately. Emergency surgery may be needed.
PLANT AND FOOD SAFETY
Before you bring a new houseplant into the home as part of your holiday decorations, be sure it’s not a plant that’s toxic to animals, such as poinsettias, winter cherry, ivy, holly, and mistletoe. If you do get those plants, keep them on a high shelf where they can’t be nibbled.
When preparing your holiday feast, make sure pets aren’t near the food unattended, as they might eat something that’s bad for them, or choke on a bone from the holiday turkey. Even after you throw food away, secure the lids on garbage cans in case a hungry dog knocks it over in search of leftovers.
If you decide to hold a holiday party, make sure the guests don’t give your pets any unsafe table scraps. Keep them away from tobacco and marijuana smoke and make sure they don’t lap up any alcoholic beverage.
Also, when it comes to parties, pets might become anxious if they’re not accustomed to being around too many people at once. Prepare a spare room in a quieter part of the house and take them there if needed.
If your pet ingests any toxic substances, call Animal Poison Control at (888) 426-4435.
- Särah Nour
Winter isn’t just a time of scraping ice off your car windows and shoveling snow out of your driveway; it’s also a time when feral cats are most in need of someone to care for them. But since they’re bonded to their outdoor environment, chances are they’ll turn down an invitation into your warm home. Luckily, whether you live near one feral cat or a whole colony of them, there are other, more efficient ways to keep them warm, safe, and healthy.
CAR AND CHEMICAL SAFETY
When it’s cold, stray cats will seek shelter—sometimes inside or underneath a car. So you may want to get into the habit of giving the hood a tap and checking between the tires before starting your car in the morning.
Antifreeze, salt, and chemical melting products are toxic to cats and other animals, so clean up any spills before they lap them up. Symptoms of antifreeze poisoning include staggering, vomiting, lack of appetite, disorientation, excessive drinking, and frequent urination. Road salt can cause paw irritation if stepped on and excessive drooling, decreased appetite, vomiting, and depression if ingested.
THE BASICS OF A FERAL CAT SHELTER
Since the indoors are out of a feral cat’s element, the best way to keep them warm is to provide an outdoor shelter. The website for the organization Alley Cat Allies sells feral cat shelters, and also provides instruction for building them out of wood, plastic containers, or Styrofoam coolers.
Whether they’re bought or homemade, shelters should be at least two or three inches wide and eighteen inches high; a size that could fit three to five grown cats. If there’s a colony of them, provide more than one shelter rather than make one large one. In larger shelters, heat disperses quickly, whereas smaller shelters take less body heat to warm up. Make sure the door is no wider than six to eight inches; otherwise a raccoon or some other animal may crawl in there.
The best way to insulate the shelter would be with straw, because it repels moisture and will keep cats warm and dry. Hay, blankets, towels, and newspapers are not recommended, as they absorb moisture. Hay could also irritate the cats’ noses and cause allergic reactions. A flap on the door to keep in heat is recommended but not required.
Shelters should be elevated off the ground—preferably with insulated wooden pallets—and placed in calm, quiet areas where the cats can avoid drafts. If you have to, shovel the show regularly to clear a path to the shelter and make sure the cats don’t get snowed in.
FEEDING FERAL CATS
Feeding feral cats on a regular schedule is best, because then they’ll know when to come out, and both the food and the cats will spend less time in the cold. Wet food is easier to digest and will save more energy for keeping warm; but it’s also quicker to freeze, so put dry food out as well. In any case, provide larger portions, as animals require extra calories and hydration in colder temperatures.
If you leave out a water bowl, use deep bowls rather than wide ones, and fill them with warm water. Change the water twice daily to keep it from freezing. Silicone bowls are simplest to clean and refill, as frozen food or water can easily pop out.
Heated bowls are available for purchase; otherwise, a pinch of sugar in the water can delay freezing for a time. If possible, keep them in the sun rather than the shade.
KEEPING YOUR DISTANCE
Feral cats may accept your shelter and eat the food you provide, but that doesn’t mean they’re domesticated. While kittens are relatively easy to domesticate, adults have not been socialized in their formative years, and likely won’t take well to being approached or petted. If you have neighbors close by, it may be best to put up a sign saying the cats are not to be disturbed.
- Särah Nour
Melanie Dinham, a local supporter of Homeward Animal Shelter, will be celebrating her birthday tomorrow, Nov. 7th. Rather than receive gifts for herself, she wishes to help shelter cats find loving, permanent homes.
Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, Dinham and her husband Jason will be sponsoring a sizeable portion of adoption fees for all cats 6 months and older. For younger cats, the shelter will hold a “Kittenpalooza” on Saturday and Sunday, which will also provide adoption fee and spay/neuter discounts.
For more information, head to Homeward Animal Shelter’s website.
- Särah Nour