Stress-Free Holidays for Pets
The holidays have arrived, and if you are one of the fortunate ones with friends and family that you like to spend time with, the holidays mean parties, dinners, gift exchanges and get-togethers. Whether you will be the host of one of these fetes, or whether you’ll be packing up the family and pet for a cross-town trip to visit family and/or friends, know before you go how you are going to keep everyone calm and comfortable, so that everyone has a good time.
Visiting … Visitors
If you are the “visitee,” you will want to do a little preparation before the guests arrive. Many of us consider our pets to be members of the family, and we enjoy having them with us in as we celebrate good times. But, when our pets are not used to have more than a few people around, they can get overly excited, and things can stop being fun. The jumping, the grabbing food from hands and tables, the barking … all of these things can lead to some embarrassing situations, and can even frighten some guests who are not accustomed to having animals around. In the weeks before the event, take some time to work on your pet’s manners and reinforce obedience training. You might try some small gatherings with some pet friendly people who can help you to reinforce your pet’s manners, so that when the bigger party night comes, your pet will already be prepared.
If, on the other hand, you know that your pet will not be able to hold back his exuberance, set aside a safe room where he can stay for the duration of the event. Make the space comfortable with a bed or rug, water, toys, and maybe some treats. Close this area off to the guests so that you can be sure that your pet, and your guests, are safe. Remember to either tell your guests that your pet should be left alone, tape a sign to the door saying “do not open,” or place a hook and eye lock on the door so that people know that it is not to be opened. The last thing you want is for a very excited pet to dash through the house, and possibly out the door to the outside of the house.
Traveling With Your Pet
Leaving the familiarity of home can provoke anxiety in people and animals. If you are traveling by car, be sure to bring along some of your pet’s favorite toys, a blanket or pillow bed, and his regular food. If your pet is used to sleeping in a crate, bring it along so he can sleep in his familiar space.
We advise keeping pets in a travel safe crate so that the animal is not able to move freely though the car. This covers a few bases. Keeping animals in travel crates prevents them from getting underfoot or on your lap while you are driving — an obvious hazard — it prevents them from being thrown from the car should an accident occur, and it prevents them from getting free/running away during rest stops or after minor accidents have occurred. We can tell you that these unhappy events do occur and are reported in the news frequently enough to make them worth noting. If you cannot fit a crate into your car, you can use a pet approved safety belt/harness to keep your pet in her seat, where she belongs.
On that note, make sure your pet is wearing identification at all times, and pack an emergency first aid kit for pets in case of an emergency. And don’t forget to take frequent breaks to allow for rest and relief.
If You Leave Your Pet Behind — Boarding
Before choosing a boarding facility for your pet, take a quick tour of the facility to check out the accommodations. You will want to be sure that it is clean and well kept, and that there is ample space given for the animals to exercise daily.
Have your questions ready before you go. Things you may want to know are: how many animals are kept together in one space; can you bring your pet’s food so that his digestive system will not be upset by an abrupt change in food; will you be able to bring along toys and other familiar comfort objects from home?
If you do not feel comfortable with a boarding facility, whether for your pet’s emotional comfort or because of health concerns, and you do not have the option of taking your pet along with you, give yourself plenty of time to ask around the neighborhood for someone to pet-sit in your home or theirs, or do some research into local pet-sitters that will come to your home to check in and care for your pet, or will take your pet into their home. The better prepared you are, the less stress there will be for you and your pet, and the better your holiday celebrations will be.
Keep to a Routine
One of the best things you can do throughout it all is to stay to a familiar schedule. This means taking walks at the same time that you always do, and feeding at the same time as usual. It might help to create an alarm system on your mobile phone to remind you of your pet’s daily routine. Also, don’t forget to take time to play and show affection, so that your pet does not feel thrown off balance by all of the activity and distractions.