The Holiday Season, Table Scraps, and Your Pet

by VetDepot on November 12, 2012

We’ve turned the clocks back, the weather’s getting chilly, and Thanksgiving is fast approaching. Then it’s just a month until the rest of the holiday season. These are times of joy and stress, family and friends, happily chaotic gatherings, and feasts.

The company, the noise, the commotion, the disruptions to routine, and other factors can be stressful for a cat or dog. Be mindful of this and take steps to keep your pet happy and healthy.

Table Scraps: To Feed or Not to Feed

A primary concern during the holiday season is whether to feed your pet table scraps at holiday meals. You undoubtedly have household rules on the topic. If you don’t feed your pet table scraps, you may wonder whether you can make occasional exceptions to include your furry friend in the celebration. If you do feed your pet table scraps, you may worry about doing so in a healthy manner during holiday indulgences.

Don’t Form New Habits at the Holidays

Consistency is important to keeping animals well behaved. If you don’t feed your pet at the table, doing so at Thanksgiving or other holiday meals undermines previous training. You can provide your cat or dog scraps, but don’t share at the table. Feed leftovers as you would any other treat after the people are finished eating.

If you do feed your pet at the table, it may not be a good idea at a holiday meal. Guests may be uncomfortable with a begging animal at their feet as they try to enjoy their food. Unless you’re certain nobody minds your pet being present at dinner, confine her elsewhere until the meal’s done. Afterward, let her out for table scraps.

Keep it Healthy

There’s no major harm in allowing pets an occasional indulgence. But pets—particularly smaller ones—don’t need many extra calories to begin gaining weight. This isn’t a concern at one meal, but if Thanksgiving and the holiday season mean lots of big meals at your house, watch how often you feed your pet extra calories in table scraps.

Also, provide healthy table scraps. Generally, what’s good for you is good for your pet and what’s bad for you is bad for your pet. Don’t give her fat trimmings, poultry skin, and other foods high in saturated fat. Instead, give her a little lean meat and vegetables. Don’t overdo it on the fiber, though. While it’s a beneficial nutrient, large helpings can cause constipation or digestive discomfort.

And speaking of digestive discomfort, most cats and dogs can’t handle a lot of different foods at the same time. They may also have a poor response to new foods. When you share table scraps, stick to one or two types of foods you know your pet tolerates. Nobody wants to see their pet suffer and nobody wants to deal with a sick pet during holiday festivities.

Know what Your Pet Can’t Eat

Be sure your pet can eat the foods you’re slipping her. For example, cats and dogs can’t eat onion, garlic, or chives, so avoid sharing a dish containing any of these common ingredients. Cats and dogs can’t have grapes or raisins, nor should they consume dairy. Remember at dessert time that neither animal can have chocolate. And, though it hopefully goes without saying, your pet should never have alcohol.

Other fruits and foods may also be unsafe for pets, so brush up on the dos and don’ts of feeding your cat or dog human foods before the holidays arrive. If you’re uncertain, ask your veterinarian, check online using a reputable source, or just err on the side of caution and stick their usual dog treats or cat treats.

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