If you're planning holiday celebrations, or a trip out of town, don't forget to plan for Fluffy and Fido.
Millions of people will travel during the holidays into the new year and if there's going to be no one home to look after family pets the animals will have to be boarded. The Better Business Bureau is a good resource for finding a kennel and BBB has a checklist that could be helpful in finding a reliable place to leave the dog, cat or bird for a few days.
If you don't have a regular place for boarding ask friends, neighbors or your vet for recommendations. Our local animal hospital has dog runs and boards most types of pets so we're lucky. We've even left a parakeet in their care and they put the bird's cage in the lunchroom so he would get regular treats and have people to talk to. The bird thrived on interaction with humans repeating his name and asking "Whatcha want?"
Some pet stores also board pets so it's worth checking with the BBB to see if there are any complaints on file. You can always make a visit to check on the cleanliness and safety of the facilities.
Don't hold back asking the kennel or pet store questions about feeding, exercise, contact with other animals and how they handle emergencies.
Many states require kennels to be licensed and inspected. If that's the case in your city or town look for the certificate on the wall.
If your pet is traveling with you, or if you will be entertaining at home, consider possible dangers to your pets posed by everything from fatty holiday food to decorations.
"Pets are involved in an alarming number of accidents, from chewing on electrical cords to knocking over trees or eating toxic decorations or plants," said Adam Goldfarb, the Humane Society of the United States' director of pet care issues, in a statement.
Inspect all holiday lights and toss any with loose connections or frayed cords. Tether a Christmas tree to keep it from tipping over. Keep breakable ornaments and electrified decorations out of reach and keep chocolate, tinsel, ribbons, wrapping string and poinsettias away from pets.
Contrary to popular belief, if a pooch or cat munches on a poinsettia plant, they may get sick but they probably won't die. My wife opts for fake red poinsettias just to be on the safe side. You don't have to worry about dropped leaves and they look good for years.
And, of course, never leave lit candles or burning fires unattended.
That advice is applicable for small children as well.
A poll conducted by the Social Beat Research Group found 76 percent of respondents consider pets "the most normal member of the family."
"Not only do these results reinforce the belief that pets, and especially dogs, are bona fide family members, but they're also considered to be stabilizing forces of normalcy within the family unit," said Joel Jenkins, who commissioned the unscientific online survey for his Internet company www.tmarkees.com.
In other animal news:
Pusuke, the world's oldest-living dog, died in Japan on Dec. 5 at the ripe old age of 26 years, 9 months, that's between 117 and 125 in "dog years."
The Kyodo News agency said the mixed breed male was eating well and remained active until the day he died peacefully as he was being petted by his owner in Sakura in Tochigi prefecture north of Tokyo.
The Guinness Book of World Records recognized Pusuke -- who was born in 1985 -- as the world's oldest-living dog. But the record for canine longevity was set by Bluey, an Australian cattle dog who was put down at the age of 29 years, five months in 1939.
Pet cat set for all 9 lives
Tommaso, a 4-year old black cat, will spend the rest of his life with a loving caretaker after inheriting $13 million from his late owner who died at 94.
The woman, identified as Maria Assunta by her lawyers, left the fortune she inherited from her late husband, an Italian property magnate, to the cat she rescued from Rome's streets.
The British newspaper The Daily Telegraph said the estate includes properties in Rome, Milan and Calabria as well as cash. The cat and the money were left in the custody of the woman's nurse, who cared for her until she died.
"We're convinced that Stefania is the right person to carry out the old lady's wishes," one of the attorney's told the Italian newspaper Il Messaggero. "She loves animals just like the woman she devoted herself to right up until the end."
ABC News said Tommaso ranks third on the list of richest pets behind Kalu, a chimpanzee who inherited $80 million, and Gunter IV, a German shepherd who inherited $372 million when his father, Gunther III, died.
Gunther III had been bequeathed the fortune by an eccentric German countess.
An extreme Christmas story
A Chicago woman who recently moved and abandoned her pet dog on the cold streets has been charged with two counts of misdemeanor animal cruelty.
Police were called when passersby saw children beating Isis, a small tan female shepherd-terrier mix, with broomsticks and baseball bats. Officers followed the little dog's bloody pawprints to a backdoor and confronted Lashon Parks, 42.
Parks told police she no longer wanted the dog she had owned for 10 years and had asked a relative to turn the dog loose to "get rid of it."
The dog followed the family to their new home two blocks away and was outside pacing, barking and howling when the children attacked. Parks said the landlord of the new apartment did not accept pets.
People have lined up to adopt the abused animal, which is in the care of Animal Care and Control and will be available after it heals and is evaluated for behavior and health problems.
"We have had several calls from concerned residents who are interested in adopting or fostering Isis. Our goal is to make sure she goes to a good home," Brad Powers, assistant to the director of Animal Care and Control, told the Chicago Tribune.