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SPCA: “Make Holidays A Happy Time For Pets”

SPCA: “Make Holidays A Happy Time For Pets”

New Zealanders are being urged to make sure their pets are cared for over the summer holiday period.

“Most of us have spent the year working hard and we’re now looking forward to a well-earned break over the Christmas period and beyond, as well as, hopefully, to some decent weather. But we shouldn’t neglect the animals who share our lives or forget to make provision for them in our plans for the festive season,” says Jenny Prattley, Acting Chief Executive of the Royal New Zealand SPCA.

‘We can start by ensuring that dogs and cats have an escape route for when Christmas visitors come to call. It can be disconcerting for animals to suddenly find their homes full of strange humans, particularly if those humans are in a boisterous party mood. So do make sure that your four-footed friends can lope off if they want to enjoy a bit of peace and quiet whilst your two-footed friends party.

“On the other hand, some dogs and cats quite like it when there are visitors around and they’re quick to sense when something special is going on. There’s no reason to exclude them from the Christmas celebrations and certainly no law against giving them specially-wrapped Christmas presents, along with the presents which go to everyone else in the family. Dogs are normally openly appreciative of this sort of thing, particularly if you make a fuss of them, although a more nonchalant response should be expected from your cat,” she says.

“But the most important responsibility we have to our pets over the holiday period is to ensure that they are properly looked after whilst we are away. One option is to find a nice, caring facility for boarding your dog or cat. But most good catteries and kennels are booked-up months in advance, particularly for the summer period. Of course, there’s always the chance of a cancellation occurring, but many catteries and kennels also have long waiting lists. So, if you haven’t already arranged a place, you’ve probably left it too late for this year, “she adds.

Mrs Prattley says that another option is to have someone living-in with your pets during your absence. But, she insists, it has to be someone who is responsible and trustworthy and who understands exactly what the animals require.

“The same applies if you ask a friend to pop in and feed your pets while you’re away. This is a reasonable option for most creatures other than dogs. But you need to be sure that your friend will do the job every day and not just when he or she feels like it. And it’s wise to tell the neighbours what’s going on so that they don’t think that the animals are being neglected and call the SPCA unnecessarily. Similarly, it could be embarrassing if your neighbours thought your friend was an interloper and called the police.

“Cats are reasonably self–sufficient and can be left on their own, provided someone feeds them and provided there’s somewhere safe, warm and dry to sleep. Even so, it can be a lonely and uncertain time for your cat, who doesn’t know for sure that you’re coming back. So ask the person feeding your cat to spend a little time each day with him or her.

“And for goodness sake, if you ask someone to feed your cat, do make sure that they know what your cat looks like and also ask them to hang around to make sure that it’s your cat who is eating the food and not some already well-fed interloper. An empty plate merely signifies that a cat has fed its fill. It doesn’t tell you who the lucky cat was. Moreover, if your cat is lonely AND hungry, he or she may well wander off in search of a nicer place to live.

“As far as dogs are concerned, it’s unwise to leave them at home on their own. A better option is to board them with a friend who should also, of course, take the dog for regular walks. Dogs who are left on their own get very unhappy and their whining and barking could lead to animal control officers being called in,” she says.

Jenny Prattley adds that the best option of all for dogs is normally to take them with you on holiday.

“Most dogs love traveling by car and will almost certainly relish going off on holiday with their owners. But, for obvious reasons, it’s not a good idea to feed them a big meal before you depart and it’s important to make regular stops for toileting, exercise and to allow the dog to cool down. Things to take with you include fresh water, a bowl, your dog’s lead and an old towel, just in case your traveling companion decides to take an unscheduled dip in a country stream.

“Whatever you do, don’t leave your dog unattended in the car for too long. Dogs succumb very quickly to the summer heat and can lose consciousness and even die. Even if your car is parked in the shade, the sun’s angle may well be completely different by the time you return and your vehicle may have become a lethal oven,” she warns.

“If you’re traveling with your dog, it also pays to plan your route well in advance. A book called “The Complete Pet Travel Guide”, available from local veterinary clinics, pet stores and some book shops, gives details of New Zealand camping grounds and motels which accept pets. There are quite a lot of them but it’s still wise to make a booking ahead of setting-off.

“Once you know you have done the right thing for your animals, you have every right to relax and enjoy yourself on holiday. And if you’ve got your dog with you, so much the better for both humans and canines,” Mrs Prattley says.

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