The winter holidays often mean extra shopping, eating, visiting and traveling. While exciting and enjoyable, all these extras can create stress and even safety hazards for your dog or cat. Learn how to keep your pets safe and healthy during the holiday season and earn yourself a place on Santa’s ‘nice’ list!
Holiday Gatherings Can Be Stressful for Pets
As a devoted pet mom or dad, you already know how much dogs and cats love their regular routines. Changes to your work schedule, more errand running and holiday gatherings can be a source of anxiety for pets. Here are some tips for keeping your dog or cat comfortable and comforted whether you’re hosting or guesting.
If you’re hosting:
- Give your dog or cat plenty of exercise and attention before the party starts, so they’re less likely to be keyed up.
- Make sure your pet doesn’t slip out the front door when guests arrive.
- Share your house rules with guests ahead of time – let them know about any areas pets aren’t allowed, ask them not to feed scraps or leave plates where pets can reach them, and specify how people should interact with your dog or cat. Parents should also be instructed to supervise their children to avoid triggering unwanted behavior in pets.
- Designate a room or out-of-the-way place for coats and bags where pets can’t get into them.
- Give your pet a safe place to retreat to. If it’s cold outside, keep them indoors, and provide a quiet room or crate where they can hide out if they feel overwhelmed.
- Be mindful of noise levels. Dogs and cats can hear a wider range of frequencies than we can, and they’re much more sensitive to sound. Drinking alcohol impairs hearing, so choose a suitable volume for music and movies ahead of time and stick to it.
- Guests are often eager to lend a hand to busy hosts. If this sounds like someone you know, ask them to help you keep an eye on your pet.
- Know the signs of dog anxiety so you can monitor and support your pup during the party.
If you’re attending:
- Give your dog or cat plenty of exercise and attention before you leave so they’re less likely to feel anxious in your absence.
- Leave some lights on for them, and possibly some background noise to mask outside sounds.
- If you’ll be gone most of the day – for example attending a holiday party after work – ask a friend or family member to spend some quality time with your pet.
- If your pet is riled up or restless when you come home late, spend a few quiet minutes together to help them calm down and feel secure before you go to bed.
Eat, Drink & Be Wary
Seasonal foods are baked into many holiday traditions (pardon the pun), and your dog or cat would love to share in the indulgence! For their sake, avoid feeding your pet scraps from holiday meals. Though there are some human foods dogs and cats can safely eat, feeding your pet table scraps can encourage begging and whining, and lead to unhealthy weight gain. There are also many types of food that are toxic to pets. Use these tips to navigate the holiday food bonanza with your pet’s safety in mind:
Know Which Human Foods Are Safe or Toxic for Pets
- Healthy human foods for dogs
- Healthy human foods for cats
- Toxic human foods for dogs
- Toxic human foods for cats
Discourage Begging & Scavenging
Delicious smells and kitchen activities are like a magnet for curious dogs and cats – here’s how to keep begging and opportunistic foraging to a minimum:
Don’t give in. Ideally you can resist those puppy-dog (or kitty-cat) eyes year round, because consistency is everything when you’re training a dog or cat. Animals don’t understand the concept of “just this once” or “only on special occasions.” Rewarding begging during the holidays teaches them that persistence pays off.
Ignore begging and reward good behavior. Remember: looking at or talking to your dog, even to say, “No, this isn’t for you,” encourages their behavior. Give your dog or cat affection and/or a treat when they’re calm and not begging for food. Consistency plus positive reinforcement for the win!
If possible, feed your dog or cat at the same time you’re sitting down to eat. Use a slow feeder to buy yourself some extra time. You can also give your dog an enrichment toy with treats to keep them occupied.
Keep food and drinks out of reach. This may be easier said than done, especially when you’re preparing a feast or living in tight quarters! Ask guests not to leave any plates or cups unattended, and make sure there’s a secure lid on the garbage can.
Feeding Your Dog or Cat During the Holidays
While many of us look forward to special meals and treats this time of year, you should do your best to keep your dog or cat’s feeding schedule as close to normal as possible.
Stock up on pet food ahead of time, so you don’t have to worry about shipping delays or last-minute store runs. Remember to buy extra training treats too, if you plan on using enrichment toys or positive reinforcement.
If you want to give your dog or cat a special holiday treat, make them something homemade! Check out our blog with dog treat recipes, or try these grain-free homemade cat treats.
Avoid Potential Danger from Seasonal Decorations
Holiday decorations can be dangerous, but it’s easy to protect your pets with a little extra care.
Seasonal plants like mistletoe, holly, ivy and poinsettia are toxic for dogs and cats if ingested. Keep them well out of the way or get the faux version. Learn more about safe houseplants for pets.
Put a pet-proof cord protector on Christmas lights, and use a deterrent spray if needed. Chewing on wires or batteries can cause electric shock or chemical burns. Consider an indoor light projector instead of string lights.
Candles create a gorgeous glow, but they can easily be knocked over by your pet. Keep a close eye on open flames, or get flameless candles for peace of mind.
Christmas trees, tinsel and ornaments can be surprisingly dangerous for pets. Did you know pine needles and tree water can cause digestive issues in dogs and cats? Artificial trees are a great option for pet owners, but either way you’ll want to make sure it’s stable enough not to get knocked over. Decorate with pet-safe ornaments (no edibles, tinsel, or trinkets that can shatter) and use pet gates if necessary to keep your dog or cat away from the tree.
Learn more about keeping your cat out of the Christmas tree.
Have Pet Meds & Emergency Contact Info Handy
Veterinarian hours may change, so find out ahead of time what your vet’s holiday schedule looks like. Ask for a recommendation to a local 24/7 emergency veterinarian if you don’t already have one. Save the number and address in your phone, just in case.
If your dog or cat takes prescription medication, make sure you have enough on hand to see you through the holidays.
Save the ASPCA Animal Poison Control number in your phone, or stick it on the fridge: 888-426-4435
They answer 24 hours a day year round, so don’t hesitate to call if you think your dog or cat may have ingested something toxic. There is a fee, but the service can literally be a lifesaver if you’re not near a veterinarian. Some pet microchip brands will cover the cost, and pet insurance may as well.
Holiday Travel and Pets
Bringing pets along on holiday travels can add to the fun, as long as they’re up for it. But even under ideal circumstances, traveling with pets requires extra planning. Learn more about traveling with dogs and cats to make your next trip a cakewalk.
The stress of travel may be too much for some senior pets, anxious pets, and pets with special needs. When you need to travel without your dog or cat, use this pet sitter checklist to make your time apart as stress-free as possible.
Raw & Natural Pet Food Is Always in Season
Time flies during the holidays, but feeding a high quality diet doesn’t have to be time consuming. Our freeze-dried raw foods and treats make it easy to give your dog or cat complete and balanced nutrition, even when festivities feel a little frenzied. Freeze-dried raw food is shelf stable and convenient for travel, too!