UNDER ONE ROOF: Pets in Your Home for the Holidays

Integrating Your Pets, Family and Friends, and their Pets into Your Home for the Holidays


The holidays are coming! Soon friends and family will be ringing your doorbell with warm, but loud, greetings of holiday cheer. The ding-donging sound of the doorbell itself could send your canine into a barking tailspin and your feline friend scurrying under the couch.

Setting the ground rules before company arrives


Whether it’s a simple dinner party or extended overnight stay from out-of-towners, to ensure everyone leaves with treasured happy holiday memories and your pets are not traumatized for all future holidays, it’s smart to prepare your pets and your guests ahead of time.

Ease into Introductions. New people in the house can upset cats and skyrocket a dog’s stress level, leading to sudden changes in behavior and personality.  To minimize trauma on both sides, lay a few ground rules, but first, start by making sure your guests know ahead of time that you have pets and that they’re comfortable sharing space with dogs and cats. It’s also a good time to ask about possible allergies. Inform them about your pets’ behavior and pet “house rules.” Once guests arrive, let everyone get comfortable with each other, don’t force your pets to socialize with guests and vice versa. Pets prefer the gradual approach and will investigate your guests in their own due time.

Stick to routines. Do your best not to alter play and feeding times. Pets rely on these simple but important routines for a sense of normalcy. Any variation from their regular schedule could send them into a tizzy; some animals can even become aggressive. Dinner parties may be the only exception to this rule. Take your dogs for a walk and make sure both dogs and cats are fed before guests arrive, which could lessen your pets’ anxieties.

Provide quiet space for everyone


Get perspective. Take a look at the world from your dog or cat’s point of view, literally. Animal behaviorists even suggest squatting or kneeling on the floor to empathize with your pet’s perspective. Establishing a “quiet room” for your dogs and cats, and maybe one for your guests, will give everyone a peaceful place to relax and escape from the noise and commotion. Be sure to stock the room with plenty of your pet’s familiar creature comforts: food/water bowls and favorite toys. Don’t forget treats for good behavior!

What NOT to do and what TO do:

  • Don’t relocate the litterbox (unless you’re establishing a quiet room).
  • Don’t relocate your pets’ sleeping areas.
  • Don’t disrupt bathroom and feeding routines.
  • Do give your dogs and cats lots of attention and assurance.
  • Do let your pets introduce themselves to your guests in their own time. Be patient.

Dog and Cat proofing your home.

Visiting animals in your home for the holidays? Things to consider.

Your favorite guests are bringing their favorite furry friend. Great! The more the merrier! Not so fast. Take these considerations in mind.

  • Be TOLERANT. Your guests love their dogs and cats as much as you love yours and they’re just as protective.
  • Talk candidly with your guests prior to their visit about their pet’s behavior patterns, or issues.
  • Guard the Christmas tree (if you have one)! Your dog or cat may be accustomed to the blinking lights and sparkling tinsel, but visiting animals may find the low-dangling ornaments too tempting not to take a swipe at. Think about elevating the tree, if possible, or temporarily relocating low-hanging ornaments to higher ground.
  • What about pet sleeping arrangements? Feeding and walk times? Do they sleep on furniture? Are they kid friendly?

Children proofing—how to make sure all pets are safe with and from children.

  • Dogs, cats and kids, sounds like the perfect holiday party. Maybe, maybe not. Animals unfamiliar with young children can misinterpret a child’s natural curiosity for aggression and react violently. Instruct young children to be respectful of visiting pets, don’t pick them up or rub their fur in the wrong direction, and keep playtime under close supervision.
  • It is never OK to force a dog to tolerate inappropriate behavior from a child (rough petting, pulling the dog’s ears, grabbing his tail); at the same time, it’s not OK to compel a nervous child to interact with even the most patient dog. If either the child or the dog shows signs of discomfort or displeasure, the situation needs to be immediately addressed by an adult, using tactics like separation or redirection.
  • Again, a safe room for pets and children is a great idea.

Enjoy the holidays! Enjoy your pets!

TIPS TO TAKE AWAY

  • To minimize trauma on both sides, lay a few ground rules. 
  • Do your best not to alter play and feeding times. Pets rely on these simple but important routines for a sense of normalcy. 
  • Be sure to stock the room with plenty of your pet’s familiar creature comforts: food/water bowls and favorite toys. Don’t forget treats for good behavior.