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Holidays, People and Pets

If you are like many people, soon your home will be filled with friends and family to share the holidays with. So how do you handle your pets while you have company?

Some pets, like some people, are naturally gregarious - they really enjoy having visitors, with all the extra attention that comes with it. But others are not as outgoing and it may be downright stressful for them to deal with new people in their home. So first, recognize your pet's ability to be comfortable and relaxed with others.

If your pet is shy, you may want to provide them with a place of their own where they can retreat when holiday company arrives. It may be a back bedroom or your office - make sure it has their bed in it, plenty of fresh water and a litter box if your shy guy is a cat. Leaving a favorite toy or an article of your clothing with your scent on it can also help your shy pet feel less overwhelmed and apprehensive. You may even consider feeding them in this area too - some pets may actually become so upset when company comes that they refuse food.
Try to stick to your normal routine as much as possible. For example, if your dog is used to a walk at 5 PM, try to ensure that that happens while your guests are there. Daily routines that are kept, especially during a period of change, will help reassure your pet that all is well. You might even use a walk to help socialize your shy dog - consider inviting an understanding guest or two to accompany you so your dog can learn that new people really are nice!

Periodically invite your pet to join the group and respect their desire to decline. If you have children visiting, make sure to explain to them to be gentle and quiet around your shy pet. For both dogs and cats, shy or not, tell your visitors that although they might not always be visible, your 4-legged friends are there and to watch for them before they open the door and accidentally let Spot or Fluffy outside. Also, make sure that your guests aren't feeding your pets any holiday people foods, some of which, like chocolate for dogs, may be dangerous and even life threatening. Avoid an emergency trip to the vet during the holidays!
If your pet has chosen to remain incognito, go back and visit him or her throughout the day to reassure them that you are still here, that you care and that all is well despite the change in your household. It is temporary, but your pet does not know that!

Another option is to leave your pet with a trusted friend or neighbor who they feel comfortable with if you think that having guests will just be too much for them to handle. Write out their normal daily routine and check in regularly to see how things are going. Let your helper know that if they have any questions to please call.

You may also want to arrange "play dates" with your pet's friends during the times when your own home might be bursting at the seams with lots of company.
Like people, pets handle change differently. Some welcome it and seem to thrive on it, while it may frighten others. Be sensitive to your pet's personality and prepare ahead for their needs during the holidays.

Deborah Dobson, FizzNiche Staff Writer