By: Sarah A. Neikam, Operations Manager

Christmas is just five days away! I’m excited, and so are my cats. At least I like to think they’re excited. They nap under the tree (now that they’re thankfully done climbing it), bat at the less fragile, strategically placed low-hanging ornaments, and paw at the shiny, wrapped presents, removing bows in the process that I’m sure I’ll find under furniture sometime next month.

We have always involved our pets in holiday traditions in my family. No, they don’t know exactly what Christmas is or why there’s now a tree in the house and boxes wrapped in shiny paper with enticing, ribbons attached to the top. But, with all of the preparations and festivities, they do get excited and frisky and add to the magic of Christmas in their own way.

Animals in general have played a part in our annual holiday of giving since the very first Christmas. Just look at any Nativity scene. Jesus was born among animals and slumbered peacefully in their presence. A donkey dutifully carried a pregnant Mary to Bethlehem. And the classic carol “Away in a Manger” tells that “The cattle are lowing”, which, in my limited knowledge of cattle, I assume means a soft mooing, a sort of bovine lullaby.

On a less religious note, what’s Christmas without a certain miniature sleigh pulled by eight tiny reindeer? Or the serene wonder of the Aurora Borealis enjoyed by polar bears drinking Coca-Cola. And then there are those tear-jerking Budweiser ads featuring majestic Clydesdales and loveable pups. Don’t forget Snoopy, Charlie Brown’s loyal and comical beagle who takes First Prize in the holiday lights contest with his colorful, flashing dog house display.

More recently, the traditional televised Yule Log has been updated by the Hallmark Channel’s own roaring fireplace with Happy the Cat and Happy the Dog, their “Ambassadors of Paws-itivity”. Both pets are rescues from animal shelters who now help spread the message that “when you rescue an animal from a shelter; you also rescue yourself and welcome a whole new world of love and devotion.”

That’s a message I can certainly support. If you have pets, and enjoy making them part of your holiday traditions, I’m sure you agree. And while you’re enjoying the holiday with your pets, be mindful of potential hazards. From mistletoe, tinsel, and electrical wires, to artificial sweeteners, chocolate and bones, the holiday fun can come to a quick halt if your pet finds a dangerous toy or treat. Call the SPCA’s Veterinary Care Center at 803-648-6863 if needed, and keep a local Veterinary Emergency number nearby.

And if you don’t have a pet to cozy up with and buy silly pet gifts for, why not change that and make Christmas even merrier? There are so many wonderful, loving, fun, special pets wishing for a forever home for the holidays.

Right now, the SPCA is running it’s annual “12 Strays of Christmas” adoption special, featuring 12+ perfectly amazing pets for a reduced $12 adoption fee. That small contribution includes each pet’s spay or neuter surgery, up-to-date vaccinations, testing and a microchip. Oh, and of course many happy holidays, cuddles, ball tosses and memories to come.

Follow the SPCA Albrecht Center on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram to see the featured pets’ photos, or visit them and all of the adorable adoptable pets in person at 199 Willow Run Rd, in Aiken.

I hope you and yours, including your furry family, have a Meowy Christmas, a Happy Howliday and a very Yappy New Year!

Sarah Neikam is the Marketing Director for the SPCA Albrecht Center for Animal Welfare. She is an Aiken native and has been with the SPCA since 2012. Sarah lives in Graniteville with her husband, Tom, mother, Cheryl and two adopted cats: Bastian and Luna.

The SPCA Albrecht Center for Animal Welfare is a private, nonprofit, no kill animal shelter in Aiken, SC.  The SPCA also operates a local Thrift Store (“Where Shopping Saves Lives”),  a public, affordable Veterinary Care Center & a Dog Park.  It is our mission to improve the lives of companion animals by rehoming abused, abandoned, and neglected pets while fighting for their well-being through vigorous legislative efforts, humane education, and by offering affordable veterinary care for all.