The holiday season is now in full swing. Whatever and however you celebrate, it's a magical time of festivities and goodwill with cheer that's infectious for people and pets alike. The happier and more excited you and your home are as the holidays approach, the more your pets will feel it, too!
Just as parents seek to make every holiday special for their children, pet owners often look to make holidays memorable for their pets. There are many ways that you can excite your dog or cat about the holidays, and ways that you can make memories you'll cherish forever.
Immortalize Each Holiday in Pictures
You've seen annual Christmas photos of children with Santa or families posed for Christmas cards. Many pet owners extend this tradition to their dogs and cats. Snapping an annual holiday photo of your pets, either by themselves or with you, gives you a keepsake to remember the happy times you shared with them.
If your dog or cat will put up with it, there are tons of adorable props and costumes that you can use to dress your pet up for a perfect picture. You're limited only by your budget (these costumes can be pricey) and what your pet will endure. But If your pet has reacted badly to costumes in the past, don't stress him or her out for the sake of a photo. You will be just as happy looking back on a picture of your pet without any accessories.
You can also achieve holiday perfection by staging the perfect setting for the photo. Take a photo of your dog sitting by a mantle with stockings hung with care. Or take a snapshot of your cat napping in the Manger under the Christmas tree. Pose your pet near your Menorah or Kinara (at a safe distance if you use real candles), or create your own elaborate winter wonderland backdrop.
The most important thing is that you will have a photograph to look back on, to capture that year in your pet's life forever.
Go Pet-Friendly with Your Décor
Nothing can ruin a holiday quicker than an enthusiastic cat or dog wrecking your most expensive, prized Christmas decorations. Bear in mind that the bright colors of your holiday decorations look like new toys, and your pet won't know any better than to play with them. If you want to have a truly worry-free holiday that you and your pet can enjoy, consider decorating with your pets in mind.
Place anything precious or breakable out of harm's way. Anything that your pet might access should be pet-friendly. For example, you can purchase a 6' pre-lit faux Christmas tree and all the trimmings for under $100 total if you shop wisely. By going pre-lit you are not only saving time and frustration but you're reducing risk to your pet. Cats and dogs can remove lights that are hung loosely on trees and chew on them. The lights on pre-lit trees are wired into the tree and difficult or impossible to remove. A pet could still chew on them, however, so you really shouldn't leave any pet alone with a Christmas tree while it's plugged in.
Be sure to secure the tree to your wall (wrapping wire around the tree and screwing it into two points in a nearby wall will help prevent the tree from tipping). Use plastic ornaments that are unbreakable – they now make lovely plastic ornaments that are virtually indistinguishable from glass ones in identical styles. If your dog has a taste for chewing on plastic ornaments, try decorating your tree with dog toys instead. It's a whimsical way to let your dog have holiday fun. When hanging your ornaments, choose a method that's safest for your pet. Pets that show no interest in removing ornaments may be fine with traditional metal hooks, but if your dog or cat takes ornaments off the tree, the metal hooks can be dangerous if ingested.
If you do want to use a few breakable ornaments, decorate only the top of the tree with them, so they are less likely to be reached by your pet. Avoid tinsel as it can harm pets if they eat it. If you like the look of something draping from branches, try thick ribbons or homemade popcorn strands. Alternatively you can purchase bead garlands that are plastic and look exactly like the vintage glass bead garlands of yesteryear. Just be sure to secure garland to the tree well to reduce the risk of your pet getting tangled in it.
If you place a Nativity scene beneath your tree and your cat keeps knocking over the figures to use the Manger as a sleeping spot, purchase a Nativity scene that's all one piece. You can find them as inexpensive as $5 in certain stores this time of year, and there's nothing for your cat to wreck.
Just because these options are inexpensive doesn't mean they're ugly. You may be surprised how far cheap Christmas décor has come! You can decorate beautifully for any holiday in a way that is safer for your pet and not a strain on your wallet. The biggest benefit of decorating with your pets in mind is that you can relax and enjoy the holiday. If your pet breaks a cheap decoration, you don't have to fuss. You and your pets can focus on having a good time during the holiday season.
If you use real candles in your Menorah, Kinara or Advent Wreath, only light them when they are completely out of your pet's reach. Consider investing in an electric or battery operated Menorah, Kinara or Advent Wreath instead. They may not be as pretty, but they are safer for your pet.
Be mindful of any decorations that may be hazardous to your pet. When in doubt, ask your vet if there are types of toxic live plants or holiday greenery that you should avoid having in the house. Holly and mistletoe are dangerous. The ASPCA has a thorough list of holiday pet safety tips on their site.
Gift-Giving is for Pets, Too!
Just like kids love getting gifts on holidays, your pets will appreciate a new toy or a special treat. Unlike kids, your dog isn't likely to ask for a new iPad, so you don't have to break the bank when buying gifts for pets. It's all the fun of gift-giving with none of the pressure!
There's something particularly festive about watching a cat unwrap a catnip toy on Christmas morning or during Hanukkah celebrations. If you wrap the toy, your cat will still smell the catnip, and will tear the package open to reveal the present. Keep an eye on your cat to make sure he or she doesn't ingest the wrapping, but if you're careful, both you and your cat can have a great time with gifts.
An Advent calendar is a popular holiday tradition, with a small gift revealed every day through the weeks preceding Christmas. This can apply to pets as well. You can give your dog or cat a new small toy or a yummy treat each day leading up to the holidays, provided that the treats you're buying are healthy and the practice won't overload their diets.
And those stockings hung with care that I mentioned earlier? Hang a stocking for your pet, too. Stuff it with small toys and treats for a Christmas morning surprise. You don't have to give everything in it to your pet all at once. You can save it for weeks and months, doling out the goodies in the stocking little by little so the excitement lasts.
Do you have any special traditions for making holidays memorable for your pets? I'd love to hear them. Feel free to leave a comment.
Wishing you and your pets a happy, healthy holiday season!