"The introduction of a child and a new pet should be in a quiet, calm, laid back atmosphere. On Christmas morning there are packages, squealing, company and loud noises and it's possible the pet could get frightened and scratch or bite the child," said Sherri Norquist, president of the Bolivar County Humane Society and owner of Paw Prints Rescue.
"I suggest they get the pet a few weeks before Christmas or the week after Christmas when everything has settled down. What you could do for Christmas is put a collar and leash under the tree that children can open with the expectation of going to pick up the pet.
"This gives the introduction between the pet and child a much better chance of being successful," she said.
Norquist also recommends keeping the pet on the same dog food they were eating before being adopted.
"At Paw Prints we tell people what we feed so they can continue the same diet. I would check with a veterinarian on a good food. When you first get an animal into your home give it a few hours before you feed it because if you feed while they are scared or nervous they might throw it up," said Norquist.
For those that already have pets and are looking to give their pet a Christmas gift Norquist has several suggestions for making the holidays pet friendly.
She suggests giving pets a stocking filled with toys or treats.
"Not rawhide or colored treats. Colored treats have dye and that dye can cause stomach problems.
"You can give them a ball—I'd suggest a Kong ball or Kong toy they can chew on or play with so they won't get pieces off of it. It needs to be large enough to hold in their mouth but big enough that they can't swallow it," she said.
Norquist also added that she enjoys wrapping treats for her animals and hiding them around the house for her pets to find.
"I wrap up treats and put several around the house. I wrap it kind of loosely so when it first tears it will come apart. Be observant that they are not eating the paper," she added.
When traveling for the holidays it is very important to keep your pets safe.
"I recommend kenneling a dog inside. If you have to go for the day I would take your pet with you. Just make sure you take something familiar or even take the kennel. "That kennel is his safe haven regardless of where it is placed," she said.
While many can't travel with their pets and have to leave them at home, Norquist recommends keeping fresh food and water close by and making sure the pet is kept warm.
"If you have to leave your pet outside we suggest heat lamps—not in the dog house—but positioned toward the door. Increase feedings—they need extra food to help generate body heat and just as much water in the winter as the summer.
"You want to make sure there is no accumulation of ice on your pet, or their food and water, and make sure they are in a good sheltered environment," she said.
For more information about adopting a pet or caring for a pet during the holidays call Norquist/Paw Prints at 662-719-8119. Information can also be found at the Cleveland-Bolivar County Animal Shelter at 662-846-1155.