The holidays are the most wonderful time of the year for humans, but they can be an incredibly stressful few weeks for pets. All the hubbub can cause anxiety in your four-legged friends, especially for animals who are new to the home. But don't worry, you can still host a holiday gathering and decorate your home while your animals are around—all you have to do is take a few simple precautions to help make the season jolly and safe for your pets. We spoke to several animal experts about the most common issues pets come across during Christmastime, and how you can help them out this year.
1. Create a Safe Space
A crowd of people coming and going and all their noise can be a stressor for pets. Set up a safe, quiet place where she can retreat; include a bed, food, water, and toys, says Jessa Paschke, behavior and training specialist with Mars Petcare North America in Franklin, TN. You can also muffle the noise of a holiday party with calming music. Does your dog get excited when the door opens? Place her in another room as guests arrive, then bring her in to mingle later. If you have a particularly nervous pet, ask your vet about essential oils or treats containing soothing herbs.
Rebecca Nelson/Getty Images
2. Limit Table Scraps
No matter how much begging happens, don’t share holiday eats with pets. "The fat content in most holiday foods (gravy, fatty meat, mashed potatoes) can be too rich for cats and dogs and cause stomach, pancreas, and intestine issues," says Sharon L. Campbell, D.V.M. at Zoetis Petcare. All bones are off-limits; they can splinter and cause internal damage. Also know that foods toxic to pets tend to be ubiquitous around the holidays: chocolate, raisins, nuts, and alcohol.
3. Stick to a Schedule
"Pets are creatures of habit and can become anxious when their routine is interrupted," Campbell says. Stick with their regular eating and exercising schedules as closely as possible, even if you have to make small adjustments like cutting short your dog’s morning walk. (If you use a pet sitter, have her adhere to the schedule too.) Carve out quality play and cuddle time with your pet; it’s calming and reassuring to them—and de-stressing for you.
4. Decorate with Care
Your pet may want to check out all the new shiny baubles, which might mean a nibble here and there. Around the holidays, vets see an uptick in stomach issues from tinsel and ornaments, Campbell says. Block access to the tree by stacking presents around it (determined pets might need a baby safety fence put up) and covering the opening of the tree stand with foil or plastic wrap so your pet can’t drink the water. The extra electrical cords out at this time of year are an increased temptation. Make sure you have lots of chew toys out as redirection and thread cords through covers pets can’t chew through.