Thursday, December 15, 2016

Do They Know It's Christmas?

The short answer is no.

The longer answer also features the word no but has more shading and nuance. But before I get into that let me reassure you (or warn you?) that this is not a typical veterinary Christmas blog post. I will not be discussing the health hazards of chocolate and tinsel, as you are all smart people and know this stuff already. Nor will I be discussing the moral hazards of forcing your cat to wear a little Santa suit or strapping reindeer antlers to your dog's head, as I know I will not be able to dissuade you from doing so anyway. (It's an uncontrollable urge made worse by the advent of social media. Laws are needed. Blog posts are helpless against this urge.)

No, instead I will explore the question in the title. "Do they know it's Christmas?" No, they do not know it's Christmas, but they do know that "something" is up. And it makes them nervous. Now, to be fair, some of that "something" is can be exciting and fun. Social dogs will enjoy sniffing the unusual people coming over and self-confident cats will enjoy secretly licking the turkey. These are the exceptions though. Most pets are merely confused and confusion leads to stress. Moreover, the majority of adult dogs and cats are deeply conservative (in the "small c" sense). Bliss for them is every day unfolding precisely like every day before it did. Bliss for them is the glorious routine. Everything. The. Same. Every. Day. Everything!  You know this already. God forbid you get up at 7:05 instead of 7:00.

Christmas has the potential to mess with every element of this glorious routine. Furniture is moved. A giant tree is placed in the house and covered with a myriad temptations you are forbidden to touch. A freaking giant tree! Festooned with shiny toys for Pete's sake! Your walks are changed or - gasp - cancelled. Your mealtimes become more erratic. Random people come and go. Uncle Darryl keeps insisting that yes you do love to have your furry tummy rubbed, but you don't and you bite him and people call you crazy. And your humans stay up late and sleep late. And all kinds of stuff is left laying around that you get yelled at for checking out. The list goes on. Christmas is stressful enough for many people, so just imagine how bizarre and unsettling it is for your dog or cat since they do not even know it's Christmas.

So what can you do? Cancel Christmas? Sure, go for it. "Vet Approved". However, that's going to be unrealistic for most of you, so instead my recommendation is that you simply keep an eye on the importance of routine. Feed the same foods at the same times in the same amounts. Go for the same walks at as close to the same times as you can manage. Keep scooping that litter box. Set reminder alarms on your phone if you are worried you will forget or get distracted by the Christmas chaos.

And if you are going to put reindeer antlers on your dog, don't tell too many people, least of all your veterinarian.