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- Not a substitute for professional veterinary help.
The holiday season is that one time of year where many of us indulge in our favorite seasonal treats and pamper our loved ones with (we hope) the perfect gift. For the 70% of U.S.households with a cat or dog, pets are naturally part of the festivities, too.
In a recent Rover survey* of U.S. pet parents, nearly two-thirds (62%) of pet parents said they wish they knew more about how to keep their pets out of trouble this holiday season, such as keeping their cat from climbing their Christmas tree or keeping their dog away from sweets.
If you’re wondering how to keep your pets safe while making sure they are able to enjoy the holidays along with you, we asked the members of Rover’s Dog People Panel for their expert guidance to help pets and their people make the most of their special bond this special time of year.
Put Your Pet on the Nice List
The most popular holiday gifts for pets this year will be toys (84%) and treats (81%), according to pet parents. If you happen to be among the whopping 89% of pet parents who said they plan to give their dog or cat a gift this holiday season, the best approach is just as it is with people: learn about your gift recipient’s likes, dislikes, habits, and hobbies.
“You know your pet best,” says Nicole Ellis, Certified Professional Dog Trainer. “Pick a toy based on their play style and habits. A durable strong chew will bring more joy and enrichment over time than a stuffed toy to a power chewer. A dog that loves soft toys won’t get much use of a super hard, indestructible toy.”
Rover’s veterinary expert, Dr. Rebecca Greenstein, urges similar discretion. “If you have a known power chewer, or a large breed, curious puppy or dog with a tendency to swallow small objects or rip toys apart, the ultra-cute holiday-themed plush fabric squeaky toys should not get added to your cart.”
Be cautious of extra hard chews and toys, too, Greenstein says: “Us vets have a motto: ‘If you wouldn’t want to get hit in the knee with it, then it’s too hard to give your pet!”
When shopping for pets, both Ellis and Greenstein say the practical approach is the way to go. “What pet parent wouldn’t appreciate an accessory like collapsible travel pet bowls or an adorable new poop bag holder?” Greenstein says.
Ellis likes giving gifts that provide mental enrichment. “Kongs and the Kong Wobbler are favorites of mine.”
More than one-third (34%) of pet parents plan to gift their dog or cat festive holiday apparel. If you’re considering a seasonal sweater or matching family pajamas for your pet, make sure you know how to properly measure your pet for clothing, and read our tips for cute and comfy costumes.
Indulge in Holiday Pet Treats
More than 81% of pet parents said they have fed their pets table scraps from their holiday meals. But before you dig in this year, Dr. Greenstein urges you to remember that while dogs and cats may show intense interest in trying human food, what’s safe for us isn’t always safe for them.
Your pet can still get in on the fun with special treats you make or buy just for them. Here are some holiday favorites we recommend.
Other treats for dogs:
- Hearty Sweet Potato Casserole for Dogs
- 11 Pumpkin Dog Treats to Fall For
- Homemade Pumpkin Pie Dog Treats
- The Turdoggen: A Gloriously Stuffed Butternut Squash for Dogs
Other treats for cats:
- Pumpkin No Spice Latte for Cats
- Push Pop Pumpkin Cat Treats: A Recipe for Fall
- The Six Best Pumpkin Treats for Cats
- Spice Up Kitty’s Holidays With the Best Christmas Cat Treats
Get Festive and Decorate (With Your Pets in Mind)
Many pet parents already know that common holiday plants such as poinsettias and lilies are toxic to pets, but did you know that seasonal flora like mistletoe and holly pose an even greater risk?
During the holidays, our experts want you to remember:
- Keep decorative, toxic plants such as poinsettias, lilies, mistletoe, holly, amaryllis, daffodils, and paperwhites away from your pet. If you can, avoid decorating with them altogether, and request that your guests not include them in any holiday arrangements they plan to bring into your home.
- If your pet is curious, almost everything brought out for holiday decorating will be enticing. Ingestion and fire hazards are real, as is the potential for serious injury from shattered glass ornaments. Be aware of where you place candles, glass ornaments, tinsel, ribbon, garlands, string lights, and even wrapped presents, striving to keep them well out of a pet’s reach.
- Keep an eye on especially young pets and known counter-surfers around holiday decorations and food.
- Pet-proof your Christmas tree for dogs and cats.
Bring Your Dog on a Post-Meal Walk or Adventure
The holiday season and winter weather go hand-in-hand and proper protection from the elements is key. “Just because most dogs are literally wearing fur coats doesn’t mean all dogs can tolerate freezing temperatures,” Dr. Greenstein says.
Nearly a quarter (22%) of pet parents said they are planning to gift their dog or cat cold weather gear such as a parka or booties this holiday season.
You can nurture your bond with your pet and incorporate them into many of your outdoor activities with a few simple precautions.
To relieve boredom and as a source of exercise, it’s important to keep up your daily walk routine.
- Dr. Greenstein’s tip: “Remember that on frigid days, most pets may need a shortened jaunt outside for their own protection. For some pets, no boots or jacket can fully protect them against extreme cold coupled with severe wind chill.”
- Dr. Greenstein’s tip: “Be sure to wipe off any salt or chemicals or snow when they get back inside.”
In addition, beware of your pet ingesting road salt, chemicals, or antifreeze. “Ingestion of large amounts of certain types of road salts and deicers can cause illness depending on the ingredients ingested,” Dr. Greenstein says. Likewise, she noted, “antifreeze is lethally toxic but tastes sweet, which makes it dangerously attractive to pets and wildlife.”
- Dr. Greenstein’s tip: “Always look for a pet-friendly ice melt.”
Learn more about being safe and having fun with your pet in winter in our articles, Running With Your Dog: A Winter Guide, Skijoring Is the Best Dog Sport You’ve Never Heard Of (and Should Try!), and How to Bring the Fun Back to Your Winter Walks.
Keep Your Pets Calm and Cozy During Holiday Gatherings
More than half (53%) of pet parents said their dog or cat will attend holiday gatherings with them this year.
While the holidays are a time to cherish being together with loved ones, the sights, sounds, and smells this time of year can be overstimulating or stressful to many pets.
If you’re expecting a household of guests and lots of activity this season, Ellis recommends the following tips for pets to be part of the fun (if they so choose):
- Have a quiet, cozy room or crate for the pet to retreat if they want a break.
- Have a baby gate up by the front door, or pets on leash, while visitors are coming and going.
- Be mindful of counter surfing! Keep countertops clear of food and crumbs; try tinfoil on countertops as a deterrent; and have a baby gate up while preparing food to keep your pet out of the kitchen.
- Practice your “leave it!” training.
- Remind guests not to feed the pets table scraps.
- Have frozen Kongs, lick mats, or similar enrichment toys ready to go—chewing and licking helps dogs relax.
- Take a refresher course on how to introduce your dog to children.
Another helpful strategy: Use signs, like these door signs Rover created that you can download and print to use wherever they will be useful—on your windows, front door, or garage. They can help you set expectations with your guests before the first knock or ring of the doorbell, and set the tone for a relaxing, harmonious holiday gathering for everyone.
We gather this time of year to be with and celebrate our special bonds with each other—including our beloved pets! A few simple safety precautions, common sense—and lots of love, praise, and treats!—will ensure the holiday festivities are enjoyable for pets and people alike.
*Methodology: An October 2022 Rover survey of 1,000 dog and cat parents in the U.S.