Cat and dogs under a christmas tree. Pets under plaid
Cat and dogs under a christmas tree. Pets under plaid

Owner and guest tips for holiday pet safety

November 19, 2021

While you may be prepared for the holidays, your pets may not. With strangers, children, food and overexcitement, gatherings can put a lot of stress on your pets, especially if it is a new or triggering situation for them. To keep both pets and people safe, it takes both owners and guests to work together to create an atmosphere that works well for everyone.

Tips for Pet Owners

Pet owners, you know your dogs or cats best. But even then, situations the pet is unprepared for can lead to surprising and uncharacteristic reactions. It is up to you to prepare your pet or determine how overstimulated they may get upon the arrival of your guests.

Practice obedience training

Upon the guests arriving, your dog may bark, growl, jump on guests or try to run out of the house, all of which are potentially harmful behaviors to both guests and pets. In the days before your company arrives, brush up on obedience training such as not jumping, going to a “calm spot” (to their bed, crate, etc.) while the guests are entering, not begging for food, responding to the “leave it” command, sitting or lying down. All of these can be beneficial to use when your pet gets overexcited, overstimulated or acts naughty around people or food.

Create a schedule for your pet

Creating a schedule for the day is a great way to keep your pet well-exercised, potty trained, fed and relaxed. This is especially important if you plan on crating your pet or keeping them in a room removed from the festivities. Make sure to exercise them in the morning and the evening to get rid of all that restless energy. Ensure you take them out multiple times during the day and that food and water are readily available. Just because your pet is out of sight does not mean they should be out of mind.

Prepare a place for your pet to stay

If you decide that it may be in your pet’s best interest not to be involved in the festivities, consider finding them a place to stay for the day. There are multiple options available to you, such as pet sitters, pet daycare and boarding. Make sure to call well ahead of time as businesses get very busy around the holidays.

Supervise all interactions with your pet

No matter the pet’s breed, age or background, they can be triggered by things you least expect, such as loud noises, behavior they consider threatening, children, a need to protect their owner, food and other things. In addition, some pets may never have interacted with children, and children aren’t necessarily the gentlest when it comes to handling pets. Because of this, it is important to supervise all interactions between your guests and your pet, including greetings, fingers stuck into your pet’s crate, feeding and people trying to pet or play with your pet (chasing, barking, growling, etc.). All of this is risky behavior that can lead to one of your guests getting bitten or clawed by your pet, or your pet having an accident, getting stepped on or accidentally getting out.

Tips for Guests

As guests, it is important to respect your hosts’ rules when it comes to how to approach or behave towards their pets. This helps ensure that you and the pet stay out of harm’s way by avoiding risky behavior that can be misinterpreted as a threat.

Always ask for permission

In general, when meeting a pet anywhere for the first time, you should always ask the owner’s permission to approach or pet the animal. While many pets may be genial towards their owners, they may not act the same way toward a stranger and may see it as a threat to themselves or their owner. When arriving at your event this holiday, please avoid greeting the pet until the owner says it is okay or safe to do so.

Do not leave children alone with the pet

As said above, it’s not certain how a pet may react around children if they are not used to children. If you are attending an event with a pet, please do not assume it is used to or friendly towards children. Keep a watchful eye on both to ensure your child does not provoke the pet or the pet does not show signs of aggression toward the child.

Do not display aggressive behavior

Avoid chasing, barking, growling or initiating play with a pet that you do not know. The pet can interpret this as aggressive behavior and may show aggressive behavior in return or may show signs of fear such as shaking, running, hiding or having an accident in the house.

Do not feed the pet

Some pets are food aggressive, meaning they may snap at your hand if you try to take their food, may accidentally bite your hand when trying to grab a treat from you or may growl at you if you come too close to their food bowl. There are also a lot of people foods pets should not be fed due to allergies or the poisonous effects it has on them. Because of this, it is safer to avoid feeding them unless specifically told that it is okay to do so by their owner.

Ask before bringing your pet

Don’t bring along your pet without asking the host. Some pets may be okay with humans but not okay with other pets. Your pet may instigate overexcited or aggressive behavior in the host’s pet. For this reason, it is best to always ask permission or attend the event without your furry friend.

Further Information

Dog and cat bites can be dangerous if the bite is deep and left untreated. Deep bites can cause skin, nerve, tissue, muscle and tendon damage, leading to difficulties moving the affected area and possibly requiring reconstruction. In addition, when left untreated, bites can become infected or cellulitic.

Cellulitis is a bacterial infection that presents as red, warm, swollen and painful skin around the wounded area. If the infection continues to progress, a foul smell and oozing may occur. The best course of action for any bite from a strange or familiar animal is to visit the nearest wound clinic to ensure that the bite is well cleaned, repaired and dressed.

If the bite causes a decrease or loss of function, surgery may be needed to reconstruct the torn tendons, muscles or nerves. In this case, consult a hand specialist like the ones that can be found throughout BRCA’s system of care.