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Pets and the Holidays

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It’s that time of year! The holidays are filled with family, gifts and goodies for many, but they also bring new challenges for your pets. Some of the things that pet owners navigate during the holidays are pets who are uncomfortable with strangers in the home, pets running outside when a door is left open or trying to escape, and pets eating things that they shouldn’t that can make them sick. To prepare for pets and the holidays, we’ve compiled some tips for dogs and cats below.

Doorbells & Knocking

A helpful training technique is to desensitize your dog to the sound of the doorbell and knocking. This will help prevent excessive barking when you have new guests arrive. Try these tips below several times in the weeks leading up to the arrival of your guests.

  1. Have a friend knock on the door or ring the doorbell.
  2. Wait until your dog stops barking (this could be several minutes) and immediately give them a high-value treat.
  3. If they start barking again, ignore them until they stop barking. Then reward them with a treat.
  4. Practice this for several minutes several times a day. Speak calmly and verbally reward good behavior with a “good boy!” or “good girl!” throughout the exercise.
  5. With enough repetition, your dog will soon learn that staying quiet when someone comes to your door means they will get a treat.

Escape Artists

If your dog or cat tries to dash out of the door every time it opens, try using a baby gate in a hallway or bedroom doorway to keep them safely inside. Alternatively, an ex-pen (a playpen for dogs) in the main room is a good alternative to keep your pup safe while letting them socialize with the guests.

Tips for Cats

Cats like to have ways to get away from the action. This can include climbing up cat wall furniture (shelving) or cat trees. Additionally a cat-ready room with dim lighting, toys, food, water and a litter box provides a safe space for them to go to. 

If your cat is usually scared of people, keep them in a separate room with the door closed. Don’t board your cat, since the stress of removing them from their home could be worse than the stress of having visitors in your home. If your cat is fine around people but might enjoy play-attacking, be sure to have an hour of playtime with them on the day of the visit to keep their “playing” with guests to a minimum. 

Create a Dog-Only Safe Space

Creating a safe space will allow your dog to retreat to their own place if they become overwhelmed or just need a quiet space. You can create a dog-ready room with a crate (if used), dog bed, your t-shirt, chew toys, bowl of water, and sound machine to drown out noises. If your dog is very young or potentially incontinent, placing pee pads in their safe space is also very useful.

For additional comfort consider using a ThunderShirt®, ADAPTIL Collar or a mild calming nutraceutical (Anxitane / L-Theanine, Lactium, melatonin). Please be sure to check with your vet first. 

If your dog cannot be around strangers, consider boarding them over the holiday. If your guests include children, never leave your pup alone with them and ask their parents to monitor their interactions with your dog.

To Eat or Not To Eat?

With extra treats sitting around, there are extra opportunities for your pet to sneak a snack.  Some treats can be toxic to pets though, including pure chocolate, artificial sweeteners (such as xylitol) and macadamia nuts. So don’t leave treats sitting out if you aren’t around.

Unsafe Foods for Dogs

  • Garlic and onions
  • Grapes and raisins
  • Stuffing
  • Turkey smothered in butter/garlic
  • Sweet potato souffle (due to added sugar)
  • Broth/bouillon (due to the sodium)
  • Cooked bones
  • Pumpkin pie (due to added sugar)


Some of these foods can cause kidney failure in dogs.

Safe Foods for Dogs

  • Small amounts of cooked turkey
  • Roasted sweet potatoes without skin
  • Brocoli
  • Carrots
  • Green beans


All  foods should be unseasoned.

Unsafe Foods for Cats

  • Sweet potato souffle (due to added sugar)
  • Stuffing
  • Marshmallows
  • Turkey bones
  • Mashed potatoes

Safe Foods for Cats

  • Lean proteins with skin and fat removed
  • Potatoes in moderation
  • Broccoli
  • Pumpkin.
  • Small amounts of cooked turkey
  • Roasted sweet potatoes without skin
  • Green beans


All foods should be unseasoned.

Check with your pet’s veterinarian before feeding any food that you’re concerned about, especially if your pet has any dietary restrictions, allergies or symptoms that may raise concern.

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