This winter, you will undoubtedly have at least one or two family members visit for the holiday season. Some of you will have several relatives that you need to accommodate, perhaps more than you would like to have. While it is important to figure out who is all sleeping where, or who will get the coveted driveway parking spot, it is also pretty vital to establish your pet’s place in all of the festivities. Suddenly there will be much more stimulation from a lot of different personalities, and this could spell disaster and/or chaos for your pet as well as your relatives. Here are some quick tips to ensure that everyone has a stress-free holiday visit:
- Make sure your company understands your pet’s personality. Some pets enjoy mingling with new people, while others may prefer to avoid strangers. If your pet is a little more on the reserved side, tell your family members not to bombard them with attention. If a dog or cat (especially a cat) isn’t “into it” when you first meet them, give them space and let them show interest in you on their own terms. If a family member is trying to force their love onto your pet, put a stop to it at once. If the pet becomes overwhelmed, it could become stressed and bite or scratch out of fear.
- Establish firm rules about opening doors so pets don’t escape. If you have a certain family member that opens and closes the door very often (for example, a smoker), then make it very clear to them that they must make sure that a cat, dog, or anything else isn’t going to bolt out of the house when they leave. You may find it simpler to invest in some pet or baby gates for added safety.
- Set rules about treats. People love to feed pets, especially if they are attempting to gain their friendship and trust with the promise of food. However, there are many foods that are not safe for pets, especially if your particular critter has an allergy or intolerance for specific foods. Establish these concerns with your family members, and tell them either to ask you first before giving a treat or simply tell them not to give anything to your pet. If they would like to shower your pet in gifts, you can tell them to buy some safe and yummy treats here!
- Beware of holiday drinks. Keep your pet out of rooms where guests are setting down their cocktails. This could obviously pose a danger to an animal, especially if your furbaby enjoys drinking out of glasses or mugs on a regular basis. Also beware of leaving out drinks in general, because eggnog and other “festive” drinks (peppermint lattes and such) can cause diarrhea and vomiting. If you have a cat who loves to knock over cups and glasses with liquid in them (like mine) then be wary of leaving drinks out, especially by things you don’t want damaged!
- Carefully check out any toys or treats gifted to your pet! Many people think that your pet can play with anything that it wants, but that is far from the truth! If the gift isn’t specifically made for pets to enjoy, ensure that it is not dangerous before letting them have it. If it is safe for pets, ask yourself if it is appropriate for your pet’s size and personality. For instance, if your 75 pound Pit Bull loves to shred stuffed animals and eat the stuffing, you may not want to give it that adorable little squirrel stuffed toy. BEWARE OF TOYS WITH SQUEAKERS if you have a large breed dog, they could possibly choke on the squeaker mechanism!
- Let new acquaintances know the rules of your house. For example, if your pet is not allowed on the sofa, don’t make an exception when company is over. If your pet isn’t allowed to be given food at the table, tell your family not to slip them secret tidbits of the holiday dinner. Don’t let your family undo all of your training that you and your pet worked so hard towards!
- If there are small children among the company and your pet is not used to or comfortable with children, provide your pet with a “safe place” where the children aren’t allowed to be or can’t go. If this isn’t possible, make sure that there is just as much supervision of the child as there is with the pet. They are both similar in the sense that they can be somewhat unpredictable, so you don’t want them to be together unattended!
- Hopefully your company won’t arrive with their own pets in tow unless they were invited. There’s enough excitement going on during the holidays, it’s best not to introduce animals for the first time during a gathering. If your family member must bring their pet, make sure that they are separated at all times, and exercise extreme caution when they are around each other. It is advisable to have all pets on leashes if possible, so that neither party involved feels threatened, territorial, or jealous.
- Try to stick to your pet’s regular feeding and bathroom schedule. If you upset their routine, it may be difficult to get them back into the swing of things after your family leaves. If you have a relative or two that you can trust with taking your dog out for a potty break, that could be helpful – but make sure they have a proper leash, collar, and harness for the pet. If your pet escapes under the care of your relative or family member – or even worse, your in-law – then chaos and mayhem will follow.
- If your pet tends to suffer from anxiety when exposed to too much excitement, talk to your vet about anti-stress pet medications.
With some planning and care, the holidays can be a fun-filled time for you, your pets and your guests! Although entertaining company always comes with its trials and tribulations, hopefully the stress will be minimal. Just try and put yourself in your pet’s position: how would you feel if random people (and possibly animals) suddenly showed up and encroached on your territory?