When Animals Attack… Your Holiday Party

The guests watched as a wayward rodent tried to escape a five-cat death trap in the living room. Not to mention the renegade songbird.

Oh there’s no place like a veterinarian’s home for the holidays
ʻCause you wake up with cat hair in your mouth
You will always find the sunshine of a doggy face
Licking you and smelling like the kitty box.

1 Rodent + 1 Bird + 5 Cats = Fun Times


Yes, another holiday under wraps, and my guests took pleasure in wonderful food, drink, merriment, a free-range mole trying to find his way out of the five-cat death trap set for him in the living room, and the live bird that was brought into that same room flying into the candles alight on the mantle.

The conversation was getting dull anyway, so I livened things up with my famous pot-on-top-of-rodent trick to trap and release him: You calmly get the rodent cornered in a room with as little furniture as possible. Place pot on top of rodent, avoiding all body parts. Slide old album cover (vinyl, that is) under pot without lifting pot from floor. Deliver rodent to the great outdoors. Remember to wash out the pot before whisking the bechamel sauce in it.

Wild birds present a greater challenge, but itʼs more dramatic for your guests to watch. Try to calmly usher bird into a corner under an open piece of furniture, like a china closet. Using a childʼs bug catcher, which should be readily available in your home, or a dish towel, catch the bird. The bug catcher requires the use of the album cover again, which is very tricky with a small songbird. The dish towel requires more finesse but is safer and more foolproof.

I cupped the little tufted titmouse in my holiday tea towel (partridge in a pear tree for theme-related purposes), and he flew away as if nothing had happened. A quick exam revealed a little blood by the keel, but the cat missed the air sac. I think Tweety was going to be fine.

Trap and Release

Debora Lichtenberg, VMDWhich brings this veterinarian to my first pet peeve as my beeper seems to go on high test for the holidays. When in doubt, donʼt beep your veterinarian about wildlife when the most beneficial thing for the creature is usually releasing it into the wild as soon as possible. A gasping chipmunk with one leg severed and in your catʼs mouth does require a death as humane and quick as possible.

But if Alvin is on his back with his feet up looking at your cat, he may just be playing possum. Getting him out the front door could mean a long and happy munk life. (I should have had the Alvin & the Chipmunks album to slide under him instead of Simon & Garfunkel — better karma.)

Wild birds can be stunned, but if you get them outside and open your hand, wait one to two seconds and many will fly away. If they flutter or drop to the ground, thatʼs not a good sign and trying to nurse them back to health is often futile but might be worth a try.

Frequently, a veterinarian who sees exotics may be able to answer some questions about wildlife rehabilitation. Phone calls at 2 a.m. about a mouse your cat just brought in are sometimes met with a cranky attitude. Good information can be found on many websites.

When Relatives Attack Too

So back to our holiday festivities! Once the wildlife has been removed from your party, not including some of your guests perhaps, many bumps in the road can still arise when you open your pet-friendly home to some not-so-pet-friendly guests.

In our next chat, letʼs talk about those pesky pet allergies, real or imagined. Is your cousin Lisa really allergic to cats, or does she just hate you?

And what about pet food on the counter? How else is your 20 pound cat going to graze through the holidays if cat food on the floor means itʼs dog food! Letʼs get real, people. Cats love to eat from a height and clean their well-nourished face from the countertop, in front of your Golden Retriever, sitting, drooling, just waiting for one piece of Fancy Feast to leap off the counter and find its way to the floor.

If your mother thinks cat food on the counter is disgusting, make a private list in your head of everything you find disgusting about your mother, smile serenely, then pet the cat on the counter.

Pets arenʼt people. Theyʼre better.

Dr. Debora Lichtenberg, VMD

View posts by Dr. Debora Lichtenberg, VMD
Dr. Debora Lichtenberg, VMD, is a small animal and exotics veterinarian who has split her time between a veterinary practice in Pelham, Massachusetts, and her studio in New York City. Dr. Lichtenberg is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine with 30 years of experience. Her special interests are soft tissue surgery and oncology.

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