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Humane Society of Greater Rochester

The holidays are a fun and crazy time, full of parties and presents. But for your pet, the holidays can be a bit stressful, with all the new people, food, smells, and noise of holiday gatherings. Make the holidays happy and healthy for all your family members, including your pets, with these helpful tips.

Keep yourself and your pets safe and happy this holiday season.

Communicate with your guests.
Is your dog an energetic puppy that you are trying to teach not to jump? Does your dog take every opportunity to find or eat food they shouldn’t? Does your cat need to be behind a gate when people come in through the front door so they don’t sneak out?

You know your pet best, so make sure to communicate with your guests, too! Whatever your rules are for your pet, communication will ensure not only that your pet is happy but also that they don’t do something potentially dangerous. For example, if your pet has an especially sensitive stomach, let your guests know that they should not feed any table scraps.

Body Language
Pay close attention to your pet during a holiday gathering to ensure that they are not feeling stressed. Stress can lead even the best pets to behave in ways you wouldn’t expect, like nipping or biting. Even if your pet normally enjoys the company of others does not mean they will enjoy a noisy party. If they start to show signs of stress, take them out of the situation to calm down, like going for a walk or into a separate room. (see “safe space” below!)

Here are some great charts to help you see the body language you may have missed.

Know your pet’s body language to help them stay happy during the holidays.

Safe Space
Setting up a safe space for your pet to go during gatherings is a great way to help your pet. Safe spaces allow your pet to remove themselves from a stressful situation. In some cases, they may feel better being in that separate room during the whole party. In other cases, they may simply wish for a place to retreat from the crowd.

Cats: Set up a comfortable space with their food, litter box, water, and hiding places. Oftentimes, a bedroom upstairs, away from all the party commotion, is the perfect spot for your feline friend. Consider playing soft music to help alleviate stress caused by the noise of the party. Many cats are lost each year when they slip through an open door, so keeping them in a room with a closed door can help prevent a lost pet.

Dogs: Set up a room or provide a crate for your dog. Consider a space behind a closed door if your dog is not social. If they enjoy meeting new people, you can just give them a place they may come and go from. Gates are also a great way to keep dogs away from open doors or outside of the kitchen with all that tempting food.

Small pets: If you have a pet that is in an enclosure, you can simply move that enclosure to another room.

For any pet, keep plenty of toys and treats around to help distract them and keep them calm. Frozen peanut butter kongs for dogs, treat mazes and cat nip for kitties, and plenty of exercise wheels for small friends are fun and keep them happy!

Provide a safe space for your pets during holiday gatherings.

Loud Noises and Kids
Whether your pet is familiar with children or not, make sure parents and children coming into your home know how to properly greet your pet. They should also be made aware of rules like not touching a pet’s food or other high-reward items. Pets and children should always be supervised by a responsible adult. When children play, it can be loud and stressful for your pet. If children are being too rough, consider moving your pet to a different room to avoid stress.

Loud noises, especially party poppers or other noisemakers, are often scary for pets. If your pet is especially fearful of loud noises, avoid party favors like these. Make sure your pet has access to their safe space to get away from the noise.

Animal Visitors
A friend or family member may want to bring their pet over during the holidays. Even if your pet enjoys the company of other animals under normal circumstances, this can still result in a highly stressful situation for both pets involved.

When you consider that your home is your dog’s territory, bringing in another dog, while they are already stressed, may seem threatening to them. They experience more inclination to guard desirable items or be less tolerant of the other animal. Some pets also don’t enjoy having another pet around, so bringing another pet into their home may never be an option, and that’s ok.

If you need to introduce your dog to another dog, the best way to introduce animals to one another is with slow introductions. Have them meet before a party environment and on neutral ground, such as a park. If the meeting doesn’t go well there, there is a good chance that a meeting at the house won’t work either.

There may be foods like chocolate, garlic, onions, or bones that a pet can get into at a holiday gathering. Keep your garbage closed or in an area that your pets can’t access. Also, consider keeping them out of the kitchen or dining room where possible with gates or barriers; they won’t get into things if they can’t enter the room!

Holiday plants can be beautiful, but some are toxic to your pets, like poinsettias, holly, and tree preservatives. Look up any plants before bringing them into your home.

You can visit the ASPCA’s poison control center if you are concerned that your pet has gotten into something they shouldn’t or if you want to make sure that holiday bouquet is okay for your furry friends!

Watch our holiday video for more information!