If you're going to be hosting holiday gatherings this year and some of your guests are bringing pets with them, it can feel overwhelming. Before inviting pets to come visit for the holidays, make sure that it's something everyone in your home is comfortable with and feels good about. The animal visitors should have their basic needs taken care of by their people, but here are some ways to be a welcoming host to animal companions staying with their people in your home over the holidays.
- Communicate boundaries - be clear in advance with your guests about your comfort with having their animals in the house. Think in advance about if pets will be allowed everywhere, or if there are certain areas you would rather pets not go, or furniture you don't want pets on. Communicating in advance can help guests prepare themself and their pets for staying in your home.
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- Pet-proof areas - To help prevent issues, it's best to remove easily breakable objects from low areas where pets could access them. You may also want to remove important and fragile belongings from the guest room where pets and their people will be sleeping/staying to prevent issues.
- Welcome gifts: Consider gifting them a little welcome package including a fun and festive toy. This can help pet owners know how welcome their pets are in your home and help provide enrichment for those pets in case their people forgot to pack them toys.
- Remove toxic plants If you have houseplants check to see if they are toxic to pets. If you have any plants that aren't safe for dogs or cats it's best to remove them from areas of your home where animals will be. Note: popular holiday plants, including poinsettias, are toxic to both cats and dogs!
- Be flexible - even the most "well-behaved" and well-trained pets are still individuals with their own personalities, and respond to stress in different ways. Try to be flexible about the needs of pets visiting your home. They might be loud sometimes, but that just adds to the holiday festivities.
- Hide toys - If you have children or your own pets in the home, you'll want to pick toys up to prevent conflicts between visiting pets. This will also prevent dogs from thinking children's toys are meant for them to chew on.
- Provide private spaces: If possible, provide a room or other private area for holiday guests traveling with pets. Having a private place will allow your furry guests to get breaks from the business of the festivities. This can help them be less stressed and better behaved while staying in your home.
- Ask before feeding: When welcoming pets into your home for the holidays, ask their people before sharing any treats with the animals. Many holiday foods aren't safe for our pets to eat. In addition, many dogs and cats have food sensitivities or allergies which could be aggravated from unapproved snacks.
As you're traveling with your pets this holiday season, you'll want to be prepared with everything your pets will need while you're away from home. When your pets are a guest in someone's home, you'll want to be especially thoughtful about making sure to be respectful. Keep your dog on leash as they adjust to the new space, and use positive reinforcement including lots of treats and praise to help your pets adjust to holiday visits. When preparing to stay with friends and family it's also helpful to:
- Groom in advance - Before heading out for the holidays spend some time grooming your pet including bathing and brushing. This will help your pet smell clean and fresh while staying in someone's house. It can also help reduce the amount of shed fur your pets leave behind while traveling.
- Be prepared - Don't assume you'll be able to purchase food and other supplies your dog is used to wherever you are traveling. Instead, bring things your dog needs for the trip including food, treats, travel bowls, and toys. You'll also want to make sure to bring any medications that your pets take regularly.
- Clean up- if your pet makes a mess while visiting for the holidays clean it up! This includes making sure you're bringing bags to pick up your dog's poop in your host's yard and scoop a travel litterbox regularly. Ask your host if pets will be allowed on furniture, and if so, if they would like you to bring your own sheets or blankets for your pet to lay on. While as a guest in someone's home, if your pet breaks or damages something, offer to replace or pay for it.
- Pack comfort objects: When bringing your pets for holiday festivities pack comfort objects including blankets, beds, and toys to help your pets feel at home and be comfortable while traveling. This can help your pets feel less stressed about being away from home.
- Bring enrichment - While you are going to have fun visiting with your friends and family, it's important to pack activities for your pets to enjoy. This can include chews, lick mats, treat-releasing toys, and puzzles. This mental enrichment will help keep your pets from getting bored and can help prevent pets from becoming stressed.
- Don't forget exercise - While you're celebrating holidays with your friends and family, don't forget that your pets still need exercise. Plan time during your day to play with your pets, take your dog for walks, and make sure their physical and mental exercise needs are being met. Getting enough exercise can help pets settle better in a new environment and help reduce stress.
- Maintain Routines: Dogs and cats thrive on routines. Whenever possible when traveling with cats or dogs for the holidays try to maintain your pets normal routines in terms of activities, feeding schedule, playtime, and exercise. This will help your pets feel more secure and comfortable while being away from home.
- Research local emergency vets: Before traveling with your pets research the closest emergency veterinarians to where you'll be staying. If your pet got into holiday food, or otherwise was sick or injured it's helpful to know in advance what vets will be open over holidays.
Supervision for pets around the holidays is always important especially when somewhere new. Keep your pets under your direct supervision while traveling. Pets can unexpectedly become stressed which can lead to them seeking out difficult-to-discover hiding places or darting at doors and getting lost. When you can't supervise your pets in a new place make sure they are closed into a safe pet-proofed room, in a crate, or otherwise safely contained.
Be careful with holiday foods
Many of our favorite holiday foods aren't safe to share with our pets. Even foods like green beans, carrots, and turkey meat which are generally safe to share with pets for the holidays are usually prepared with spices, onions, and/or garlic, which makes these foods potentially toxic or harmful for our pets. Before sharing food with your pets or your guest's pets, make sure to check if the food and the ingredients used to prepare it are safe for your pet.
Update contact identification
As you travel with your pets this season check that your pet's identification is up to date. If your pet is microchipped be sure that your contact information is updated and accurate. Your pets should also be wearing identification tags on their collars that have your cell phone number, or other number you will have access to while traveling.