Last Christmas wasn’t quite what we’d all hoped for. With much of the country locked down and families kept apart, this Christmas is sure to be bigger than ever.
But with big Christmas plans afoot, the RSPCA is urging pet owners to plan ahead and think about their animals in advance.
Pet welfare expert Dr Samantha Gaines said: “Last Christmas was a disappointment as most of us were locked down and many families haven’t been together for many months due to pandemic restrictions. With a four-day festive holiday looming and an opportunity for all of us to be with our loved-ones this year, I’m sure everyone has big plans afoot.
“It’s really important to think about how our pets fit into our plans now and to make a plan to ensure that they’re being well looked after during the festive season. If you’re hosting Christmas this year or heading away for the holidays, will your pet be joining in with the fun and will they enjoy that? Or will you be looking for care for your pet while you head off for a festive getaway?”
The RSPCA deals with thousands of reports of abandoned animals during the winter months, with more than 1,000 in December alone. At this time of year we receive one call every minute and one report of an abandoned animal every hour.
While some of these calls may be about animals turfed out in the cold, left in boxes in the woods, or tied up to lamposts; many of these abandonment cases refer to those animals who have been left behind while their owners go off to enjoy Christmas without them.
“It’s completely unacceptable to leave your pet behind without suitable care over Christmas,” Samantha added. “Leaving cats and other pets like rabbits, guinea pigs and some small furries with some extra food and water isn’t good enough. If you’re planning to go away for a few days then you should be making a proper plan, whether that involves taking them with you getting a friend, relative or neighbour coming in to check on your pet, or whether that means booking them in for boarding. If you have a dog then someone checking in won’t be enough and you need to look at a proper pet-sitter or boarder.
“It’s also important to bear in mind that some pets – particularly dogs who have got used to having us around a lot more during lockdown – will really struggle being left home alone for significant periods of time over the Christmas period. Make sure they have the company they need and when thinking about our pooches, be DogKind and think about whether they will be happy at home on their own if you’re heading out for Christmas dinner or family drinks, and if you are taking him along to join the fun will he be relaxed and is there somewhere he can go to if the party spirit becomes too much.
Top tips for caring for your pets this Christmas
Will your pet be comfortable on a busy Christmas Day? Christmas Day can be a busy, loud and overwhelming day so it’s important to bear in mind whether your pet will be comfortable in that setting. Will they be happy around everyone or would they prefer to stay somewhere quieter? Can you set them up a nice, safe, quiet space for them to escape to if they need to?
Is your pet happy travelling? If you’re going to stay with friends or family then it’s important to plan in advance whether your pet will be coming with you. Is your pet comfortable travelling in the car, will they be happy in a new environment and around their pets? If they aren’t then you might be better off leaving them at home with someone to take care of them.
Will you be leaving your pet home alone? Some pets really struggle being left home alone while others may prefer that to being in a busy, loud setting on Christmas Day. Even if your pet is happier left at home, it’s important to think about whether or not someone is needed to come and check in on them.
Organise appropriate care for your pet while you’re away – Do you have a friend, relative or neighbour who’d be happy to pop in and spend some time with your pet while you’re out? They can check they have water, food, toys, and are well in themselves. Or would you prefer to book your pet in with a sitter or at a boarding establishment. Bear in mind that these can get busy so you’ll need to organise this long in advance!
Prepare for the holidays – Lots of shops will be closed over Christmas so it’s important to ensure you have everything your pet needs for the holidays. Do you have plenty of food and any medication they may require? It’s also important to make sure you’re aware of contact details for out-of-hours vet clinics just in case your pet requires emergency treatment during the festive season.