How Not to Neglect Your Pet During the Holidays
The holidays can be a hectic time of the year. Between shopping, hosting company, baking cookies, wrapping presents and attending an array of festive gatherings, the season keeps us busy. But even though your calendars are booked and you are often running on empty, it’s important to make sure not to neglect your pets during the hoopla.
We spoke to an array of veterinarians and experts to get their best tips on how to make time for your pets this December.
Squeeze in Time Whenever You Can
“Holidays are stressful for pets and people alike and the pet can be pushed aside for more pressing chores,” says Sniff & Barkens dog expert Amy Robinson. “You can help your pet and yourself by carving out a little ‘us’ time.”
Toss a ball in the living room for your pup while coordinating travel plans with a relative on the phone, curl up on the couch with your cat for a television break after a long day at the mall, or take your dog with you to run a quick holiday errand (but don’t leave him alone in the car).
“Instead of just opening the door to let your dog outside, take him out on a leash for additional bonding time,” says Dr. Shari Brown of Banfield Pet Hospital in Chesapeake, Virginia. “Anything you can do really adds up.” Giving your pets a daily dose of love will keep them healthy and happy as the year winds down.
Check in on Your Pets
“A lot of dogs and cats are looking for attention—to be pet, played with, simply acknowledged. Simple things such as petting them or talking to them can go a long way,” says Brandy Diaz, a Los Angeles-based pet trainer.
If your pets are behind closed doors due to company, steal away when you can and sit with them. In such a situation, Diaz recommends leaving the radio or television on to keep your pets company.
Brandi Hunter, vice president public relations and communications for the AKC, suggests making your pet’s temporary hideout from guests as cozy as possible.
“Give your pet his own quiet space to retreat to—complete with fresh water and a place to snuggle. Shy pups and cats might want to hide out under a piece of furniture, in their carrying case or in a separate room away from the hubbub.”
Keep Your Pet’s Schedule Consistent
Our animals love their routines and may not appreciate having their dining schedules, daily walks and play sessions thrown off balance due to the holiday chaos. For this reason, Hunter reminds pet owners that it’s extra important to do the best they can to keep their pet’s routine consistent. Try to feed your pet at the same time every day and sneak in regular walks if you can. After you eat your big holiday meal, take your dog out for his nightly walk; your guests will understand that it’s part of Fido’s routine.
“A walk is a good idea not only to give your dog needed exercise and a bathroom break, but is also a nice bonding activity for you to get some one-on-one time together away from the busy holiday table,” says Dr. Brandon Sinn, a veterinarian at Main Street Animal Clinic in Fairbury, Nebraska. Even if the walk is shorter than usual, it’s still important to do what you can to adhere to what your pet is used to it.
Bring Your Pet on the Road
If it makes sense logistically, Sinn suggests bringing your dog along during your holiday travel. “There are a lot of pet-friendly activities and accommodations that make traveling with your dog today a fun and worthwhile experience,” he says.
If your pet comes with you, schedule daily time to have one-on-one interaction and play – whether on a walk, a run at a dog park or beach or shopping for your pet’s favorite toys. It’s important to include your dog in your daily itinerary, Sinn adds.
Let Your Pet Be Your Plus One
If you’re attending a holiday party at a family member or friend’s home, ask if you can bring the dog. “A dog can bring real joy and entertainment to a holiday party, especially if young kids are in attendance and need a play activity,” says Sinn.
If you do bring the dog, make sure your host is adequately set up for an animal in the home and if not, plan ahead and bring a crate or gate and/or your dog’s favorite toys and long-lasting treats to keep him busy during the festivities.
Make Your Pets Part of the Holidays
Give your pet his own stocking and fill it with all kinds of Christmas goodies, so when December 25 rolls around and you’re opening presents, your pet will benefit as well. Reward your cat for being good this year with a toy or give your dog a bone to chew on to occupy himself while you dive into those gift bags.
Hunter suggests filling your dog’s stocking with “Kongs that can be stuffed with healthy foods or chew treats that are designed to be safely digestible,” and surprising your kitty with “a new ball that’s too big to swallow, a stuffed catnip toy or the interactive cat dancer.” Gift your pet a new collar or fluffy new bed. Little gestures like this will let them know that they are loved and appreciated.
Don’t Be Afraid to Hire a Pro
If you have a day where you simply cannot be home to spend time with your dog, drop him off at a local doggie daycare. That way, instead of sitting at home bored, your pup can get some stimulation and play with a group of new friends. “Another option is to hire a dog walker to come in and take your dog for a walk,” says Diaz.
You can also call on a friend or family member to come in and play with your cats and give them some attention on days when you get extra busy. And of course, if you are traveling for the holidays and can’t bring your pet with you on the road, it’s important to make arrangements for your pet to be properly cared for.
Don’t Introduce a New Animal into Your Home
Many children ask for a puppy or kitten for Christmas, however, bringing a new pet into your household during the holiday season is not a good decision. Instead, opt to adopt your new pet in the New Year when your schedule has resumed normalcy. Pets crave consistency, and new dog and cat additions to the home require a lot of structure and attention, which is rarely an option during holiday time.
“A better idea is to give dog-related gifts—toys, leashes, grooming tools—and then bring your puppy home when all the excitement has died down,” Hunter says.
Treat Your Pet to Their Own Holiday Feast
Pets have sensitive noses, and the smell of a turkey browning in the oven or a holiday ham roasting can send them into a tizzy. But human food isn’t always the best choice for pets. Robinson suggests doing your best to keep your pet away from the table while eating a festive meal.
“Wandering under the table leads to lots of sneaked snacks from well-meaning guests. Veterinarians get a lot of pancreatitis cases this time of year from animals consuming fatty foods, and the condition is painful for the pup,” she says.
Instead of giving your pets table scraps, prepare a special pet-approved holiday meal for them and serve it to them in their bowls. You can also buy your dog a special bone to snack on while the family eats their feast. Give your cat some of her favorite treats or let her entertain herself with some fresh catnip.
The holidays can be a stressful time for humans but it can also be hard on our pets. Make the season a little easier on your furry friends by making sure you are not neglecting them, giving them adequate attention, and spoiling them with new toys, treats, and extra love.