With covid-19 restrictions lifted, Ganesh Chaturthi will be celebrated in all its splendour after a two-year gap. During the 10 days of celebration, one can count on loudspeakers playing music constantly. Many families also bring home a Ganesh idol, worshipping it for 10 days before immersing it. For young pets, this may be both novel and perplexing. Here are a few things to keep in mind.
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1. Restrict access to the place where you install the idol. Pets are curious by nature and some of the items used in the puja ritual can be harmful for them.
2. To prevent your pet from accessing the food offerings, you might need to create collapsible barriers or use the furniture you already have to limit access. You can consider keeping the room with the idol locked at night. Cats tend to climb on furniture, so you might want to keep your puja spread in an area they cannot reach.
3. Betel nuts and camphor, in particular, can be dangerous when ingested. Betel nuts cause gastrointestinal irritation in pets, while consumption can lead to vomiting, blood in stools, diarrhoea and loss of appetite. Camphor may result in neurological symptoms like seizures, which can be fatal.
4. Don’t apply vermillion (tilak) on your pet’s forehead. It can contain dangerous amounts of lead, which can get absorbed through the skin and have consequences, though it is rare.
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5. The ornaments used to adorn the altar can be harmful if consumed. Metal objects can cause severe toxicity if swallowed. Animals tend to nibble at the polystyrene sheets used as a backdrop for the pedestal, and this can be a choking hazard. I once had to extract a Laxmi foot sticker from a Beagle’s stomach even though it had been firmly attached to the floor in the puja room. It caused a stomach ulcer.
6. Loud noises can upset pets. During the aarti hours, keep them in a private, secure area in the home where they will not be overwhelmed by the noise and bustle. This area can be their haven if they are unnerved by the guests.
7. Exercise caution if your pet is nearby during the aarti since the fire and incense smoke can exacerbate illness in asthmatic pets.
8. If your pet suffers a burn injury, douse the area in cold water and consult a veterinarian.
9. Although it is only natural to want to give pets the laddoos and modaks specific to this occasion, remember that their digestive systems cannot process these delicacies. Avoid laddoos that contain raisins or other dried fruits. You should be careful too about how many sweets you allow your pets. Too many might lead to pancreatitis. Chocolate is poisonous for both dogs and cats. No treat should contain the sugar substitute xylitol because it can lower their blood sugar levels quickly.
10. The days of visarjan (idol immersion) can be almost carnival-like. You may need to alter your pet’s usual walk route because the raucous sounds of a dhol can make it anxious.
11. Make sure your pets have current ID tags, so that they can be helped to return home if they bolt in fear. This is most likely to happen with pandemic pets that have no experience of such loud sounds.
12. Close the windows at home if they are afraid of loud noises. During a visarjan parade, playing calming music or turning on the television may help dogs who are afraid of noise.
13. You could even consider putting sensitive pets through a noise desensitisation programme as the festival season approaches.
14. Don’t take your pet in a public visarjan procession unless you are certain it can cope with the noise and crowds.
Dr Nameeta Nadkarni is a practising veterinary soft tissue surgeon and pet blogger from Mumbai, who loves to play the piano in her free time and is ruled by her whimsical cat, Catbury, at home.