Q: I have the world’s friendliest—and hungriest—cat (KitKat). I’ll be entertaining on New Year’s Eve, and I know KitKat will beg for food and eat from unattended plates. My apartment is small, so I can’t lock her away. Please tell me what foods can hurt her, so I’ll know what not to serve.
A: At your party, don’t serve the following:
Anything with small bones that could lodge in KitKat’s intestines if she eats them.
Steer clear of onions, garlic and chives, which damage cats’ red blood cells and irritate the stomach and intestines.
Avoid raisins and grapes, which have induced kidney damage in some pets.
Stay away from macadamia nuts, which can cause vomiting, weakness, loss of coordination and tremors in pets.
Check food labels, and don’t serve anything that contains xylitol, an artificial sweetener commonly used in candy, gum and baked goods. In pets, xylitol causes hypoglycemia and liver damage.
Despite her name, KitKat may not ingest chocolate or caffeine, which are bad for pets.
If you serve alcoholic beverages and KitKat likes them, warn your guests to keep their drinks close. Friends don’t let friends’ pets drink alcohol.
Also, don’t allow anyone to smoke in your apartment, as the smoke and the nicotine in an ingested cigarette butt are harmful to pets.
Editor’s Note: Here are additional tips on pet safety and avoiding common holiday hazards.
Q: My dog Riley is afraid of loud noises. My neighborhood celebrates the New Year with fireworks and gunshots. How can I help Riley tolerate this noisy day?
A: Dogs with noise phobia not only panic, but they may become destructive and even escape from the yard.
Here are a few tips for keeping pets calm:
Offer Riley a safe space, such as his crate covered by a blanket, in a room with the curtains closed, so he won’t be startled by the flash of the fireworks.
Play music with a regular beat to distract him for the outdoor sounds.
Soften the noise by inserting cotton balls in Riley’s ears or having him wear Mutt Muffs hearing protection.
The ThunderShirt, Anxiety Wrap and similar garments provide gentle, constant pressure that promotes relaxation.
To calm Riley without sedating him, your veterinarian can prescribe a medication to be given an hour or so before the noise begins. Commonly used drugs are alprazolam, trazodone and Sileo, a liquid squirted between the gums and cheek.
Non-drug options are effective for some dogs, particularly those with mild noise phobia. Adaptil, available as a collar or diffuser, releases a pheromone that induces relaxation. Composure, a calming supplement available as chews or a liquid, also helps.
Editor’s Note: Since loud noises like fireworks and thunderstorms often produce the same level of anxiety in pets, here are some additional tips for destressing your pet.
I wish you and Riley a healthy and peaceful New Year.
Lee Pickett, V.M.D. practices companion animal medicine. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.