Pet Proof

Of course Chairman Meow and Bridget Bardog are truly members of your family, but that doesn't mean they should share in all your holiday festivities.

You know that the season strains your nerves and digestive system. Just imagine how all that excitement, all that glittery stuff, all those rich smells and richer tastes can drive your poor pets to ecstasy, followed soon by agony.

So for a minute, put aside Santa Claus and think like Santa Paws. What's really good for the dogs and cats you love? And let's not forget the ferrets and the birds that may share your home. State humane officer Dr. Yvonne Bellay offers some do's and don'ts of creature comforts for the season:

DO keep your pets on their regular feeding, walking and play schedule. Animals do best with routine.

DO pet-proof your decorations. Glass ornaments that could cut tongues and paws, tinsel and angel hair that can block digestive systems, and lights on chewy electrical cords all need to hang beyond doggy and kitty reach. If your cat's a climber, tie the Christmas tree with fish line to a hook in the ceiling or to a wall stud. Keep candles out of reach and in your sight so their paws don't get burned or your home set on fire.

DO keep your pets in a closed, quiet room during parties to protect guests from over-excited animals and animals from guests who slip them scraps, leave drinks unattended, forget to close outside doors or step on unwary ferrets.

DO treat pets with dog biscuits or catnip toys instead of people treats.

DO keep seasonal greenery out of reach. Poinsettias irritate cats' and dogs' mouths and digestive systems. Holly and mistletoe are actually poisonous, and might drop berries (the most toxic part of the plant) on the floor even if the plants themselves are out of reach. Try plastic or silk instead of real plants. Your dog and cat will love you, even if Martha Stewart thinks you're tacky.

DON'T let your pets drink water from the Christmas tree stand. Preservers may be poisonous (even aspirin), and stagnant water gives rise to potentially harmful bacteria.

DON'T share holiday treats with your pets, no matter how sad their faces. Chocolate is a triple threat, with two stimulants (caffeine and theobromine) and a not-so-healthy dose of fat. All that adds up to vomiting, hyperactivity, seizures, irregular heartbeat, and pancreatitis in dogs. Likewise, all those other fatty treats like gravy and stuffing and caramels and eggnog can wreak havoc with a dog's digestive system. Turkey and chicken bones tossed in the trash may end up splintered in your pet's intestines.

DON'T even think of giving alcohol to pets. It is a toxin.