I love Christmas, and I love the days surrounding it. I love all the holiday meals and yummy treats. I love parties, and I love quiet family time. What we all need to think about when it comes to our pets, though, is whether or not they love everything about the holidays.
Many dogs and cats are very social, but, while your pet may start out happy to see all the friends and relatives during your annual open house, after awhile, they may wish for a bit of peace and quiet. Or, you may have a pet that runs under the bed at the arrival of the first guest. Make sure your pet has an escape route. Or, if you know that your furry pal likes his solitude, take care of him before the party starts. Put your dog or cat in a crate, or into a bedroom, and close the door. If you think someone might open the door, post a sign.
Another reason to think about removing your pet from the party has to do with your guests. Yes, I know, your pets are family, but some of your guests may not be "animal people." Some may love cats and dogs, but not the fur they leave behind on party velvet. You want people to enjoy themselves, and it won't hurt "Fido" and "Kitty" to be elsewhere for a few hours.
If your pet is just fine mingling with the guests (and the guests are happy), keep an eye on how many treats that pet is getting. Too many extra holiday treats can add pounds to your pet that he doesn't need, and, just as with people, it's easier to put the weight on than it is to take it off. I frequently give my dogs a small piece of cheese, but that's one piece. At a party, guests offering cheese might mean 10-12 pieces of cheese, and that's too much. If you don't think your guests can resist your dog's soulful pleading, or your cat's loving head butts, then again, it's time to remove the pets from the party.
If you have a hamster, guinea pig, ferret or rabbit, remember that too many visitors can cause stress. Limit the petting, stroking, holding and hugging. If you have a bird, cover the cage, or put the bird in another room.
You'll need to watch treats even if you aren't having a party, but that doesn't mean you can't offer some goodies. Just be selective. Chocolate is at the top of the forbidden list for dogs, and be careful your canine pal doesn't steal the box of raisins you have for cookies and breads. Too many raisins can cause renal failure. Most dogs will eat most anything, which is both the good and bad news. A green bean can make your dog very happy and is practically calorie-free. Gravy will make your dog happy, too, but limit that treat to just a little drizzle over his food.
Your cat may well enjoy a nibble of turkey and maybe even a bit of gravy on his food, but the turkey is the better choice.
Birds may enjoy a nut or two. If you have a larger parrot, it may even be able to crack nuts, especially if you start the process. That gives the bird something to play with as well as eat. Just remember to leave almonds out of the mix.
Ferrets, like cats, enjoy the occasional high-protein snack, so a bite of turkey is both festive and appropriate. Many smaller, furry pets, like rabbits and guinea pigs, may enjoy a chew stick from the pet supply store, or, if you have access to some willow or fruit tree branches, bring them in and let the gnawing begin. Rabbits, apparently, also enjoy the occasional empty ice cream cone.
Wander the aisles of a pet supply store, and you'll find all kinds of treats and toys to fill the stocking of your favorite pet. Just remember when buying toys, that not all toys are equal. As with children's toys, you need to consider whether there are pieces that can be chewed off and might be swallowed. Also consider the size of the toy. The ping-pong ball that makes your cat happy could choke your dog. Supervise play in the beginning to make sure it doesn't present any danger to your pet.
With just a few precautions, you can make sure that all the members of your family have a very merry Christmas.