How To Have a Holly, Jolly Holiday Season With Exotic Pets

‘Tis the season to celebrate! At Companion Animal Hospital, we love seeing cute and delightful photos of adorable cats and dogs embracing the holiday spirit. However, in this article, we shift our focus to the unique needs of reptiles and exotics during this time of year. These guys also need some extra TLC during the holidays! A local Live Oak, FL vet offers some insight as to seasonal care for exotics and reptiles in this article.

Make Sure To Decorate Safely With Exotic Pets

Many popular holiday decorations are dangerous to pets. While this isn’t a big concern for pets that stay in their habitats, it is definitely something to worry about if your little buddy is allowed out.

  • Any small or sharp items are unsafe. That would include things like manger pieces, small figurines, the plastic berries on many decorative items, ribbons, ornaments, ornament hooks … the list goes on and on. Glitter, tinsel strands, and pine needles are also unsafe: pets may try to eat them. Be very careful when letting your little buddy out. You may want to put a puppy gate around the tree.
  • Seasonal plants are another thing for pet owners to be concerned about. Many, such as holly and ivy, are unsafe for animals. The list of safe and unsafe plants varies widely from pet to pet. Do some research, and find out what is and isn’t safe for your little (or not very little) buddy. Keep in mind that even non-toxic plants can become toxic if they have been treated with chemicals, such as pesticides or fungicides, or are decorated with small items. That tiny elf figurine may look like a delicious snack to your pet lizard!
  • Christmas trees can be another hazard. Pine needles are pretty sharp, and can cause injuries. Some pets, such as birds and sugar gliders, may want to perch in the trees. That’s definitely unsafe! In addition to those sharp needles and branches, that sticky sap can also be an irritant. If you have a real tree, the water bowl is another concern. The water may contain leached traces of chemicals such as pesticides or fire retardants. That’s not even including unsafe decorations, such as string lights and fragile ornaments.

Of course, there’s no reason that you can’t have some fun with your pet’s habitat. Add a festive seasonal backing to your pet’s tank. You can use wrapping paper: just attach it to the outside. Another option is to put out smaller decorative items on the outside of your pet’s habitat. Or, you can add a holiday-themed hide, such as a cute igloo. If you have an animal companion that likes to chew, such as a bunny or hamster, offer them some plain paper snowmen or snowflake chains. These are great kids’ projects!

Avoid Holiday Stress

Most pets are creatures of habit. Any disruptions in their schedules, care routines, and environments can upset them. Loud noises and commotion can also frighten our animal companions, particularly the smaller ones. If your aunt is bringing her Great Dane over, your hedgehog may also be quite frightened of your canine guest.

If you’re hosting a holiday party, consider putting your pet in a quiet back room during the event. If their normal enclosure is too big for you to easily move, set them up with a travel enclosure. The main thing is to ensure proper conditions.

It’s also important to watch for signs of stress or anxiety. Indications of this will vary from pet to pet. Do some research and find out what to look for in your animal companion. That said, there are a few universal things to look for, such as anorexia, unusual posture or vocalizations, trembling, and hiding.

Monitor Exotic Pets Conditions During The Holidays

Keeping your pet at a comfortable temperature is always important, but it’s particularly critical for reptiles. Cold-blooded animals can get sick very fast if their environment gets too chilly. That’s a particular concern at this time of year, as weather conditions may fluctuate so quickly. Pay extra close attention to your pet’s habitat and environment at this time of year. Make sure all heating and lighting equipment is functioning properly.

Consider adding some extra bedding, especially for aging animals. It’s also not a bad idea to get a backup heat source, such as a small generator, in case of a power outage.

Seasonal Travel: Should Exotics Stay or Go?

This is the busiest time of year for travel. That can get a bit tricky for people with reptiles or exotics. If you’re only going over the river and through the woods to Grandma’s house, you might be able to bring your pet with you … if they’re welcome. Always confirm your pet’s accommodations before heading out. You don’t want to find out at the last minute that the Airbnb you booked won’t allow pets!

  • Pack carefully. You’ll need to bring food, bedding, heating and lighting equipment, and any supplements or medicine your pet needs. We’d also advise bringing a first aid kit along.
  • A good case or carrier is a must. A dog or cat carrier will work just fine for some animals. You can also use a plastic storage container with air holes popped into it. Or, get a small tank or aquarium. When preparing for travel, make sure nothing can fall over onto your pet.
  • With reptiles, you’ll also need to make sure that they stay comfortably warm on the ride over. Heat packs, microwaved rice socks, hot water bottles, or even regular water bottles with hot water in them can all be helpful here. Place these around the outside of the tank, so they don’t fall over on your pet. Also, be sure to have the car warmed up before bringing your pet out. Ask your animal clinic for more information.

Holiday Boarding/Pet Sitting For Exotics

For many exotics or reptiles, having someone stop over to care for your pet is much easier than bringing them somewhere. You’ll know that your beloved pet is being cared for by an experienced professional.

Pet Sitters are the least disruptive option: your pet will only experience a minimal change to their usual routines. If you can’t find anyone to stop over, look into professional reptile sitter services. You can also bring your animal companion to your pet sitter’s house. You’ll have to take the time to get everything set up properly, but once this is done, the pet sitter should only have to worry about providing food and water and doing some spot cleaning.

The type of animal you have will also factor in here. Many reptiles are quite low maintenance: some don’t even eat every day. Others, however, require daily care. Modern technology may make things a bit easier. Have your heating and lighting equipment on a timer, and consider adding a webcam. You may also find it easier to measure out your pet’s meals in advance, and put them in labeled plastic baggies.

Choosing Holiday Gifts For Exotics

Exotics and reptiles also deserve gifts! A snake or turtle probably won’t get very excited over a new plushie ball or stuffed animal, but they might appreciate some new decorative items, such as new climbing branches or perhaps a new hide. Many smaller animals, such as Guinea pigs, ferrets, and hedgehogs, enjoy comfy beds, tents, or hammocks, while pets with open-rooted teeth will always appreciate chew toys. Snacks are another option. Just stick with safe choices. Ask your Live Oak, FL veterinarian for more information.

Taking Seasonal Photos

Reptiles and exotics can take some really cute seasonal photos! Who says you can’t have fun with this? Try putting little reindeer antlers on your hedgehog, or pose your rabbit on a little sleigh. You can also experiment with editing software. (Tip: if taking a picture of your pet inside their cage, angle the phone a bit to reduce glare.)

Just put safety first. Never leave pets alone with props, and only use safe things. Ask your vet for more information.

All of us here at Companion Animal Hospital wish you a wonderful holiday season. Please reach out to us for all of your pet’s veterinary care needs. As your Live Oak, FL veterinary clinic, we’re happy to help!

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