How to Prepare Your Pet for Family Gatherings
The holidays can be a wonderful time of year, but also a stressful one, even for pets! If you’re planning on hosting a single party or a whole string of events and guests, these tips can make it low-stress for you, your pet, and your guests.
Create a Safe Space
A few weeks before company comes, designate a special safe space in the house for your pet where they are comfortable. This space should be an area away from guests where your furry friend can retreat to let down their guard and relax. Great places for this are a bathroom, laundry room, or bathroom that guests won’t have access to. Include food and water, a pee-pad/litter box, and a bed and/or blankets.
Create a soothing space for your pet with a calming playlist to not only induce relaxation but also drown out unfamiliar voices and ever-opening and closing doors that could make your pet anxious. Include interactive toys so your pet doesn’t get bored.
Ideally, your pet could wander from this space to the action and back as they feel comfortable. More skittish pets might like to stay in the space until a smaller group forms or everyone is gone.
Before the party starts, let your pet sniff out any changes you’ve made to the house, such as new decorations or furniture. Walk them through the house so they’ll be comfortable with the recent updates.
Take your dog for a long walk before the party, especially if they will be remanded to their safe space for a long time. If you have a cat, schedule some extra one-on-one time for treats, play, and cuddles. It may be a good time to break out their favorite feather chaser or laser.
Double-check that your pet has everything they need in their safe space. Fill up water and food, clean up the litter, and make sure their favorite toys are in their space.
Social Butterfly or Wallflower: Let Your Pet Decide
Depending on your pet’s general disposition and the size of the gathering, decide how you will introduce your pet to your guests. If a guest is staying with you overnight or longer, a one-on-one introduction is ideal for your pet to sniff this new person out. If your pet doesn’t want to engage with your guest, don’t push it. Let your pet visit with guests on their own time.
A great way to encourage engagement for more reluctant pets is to give the guest a treat and then ask your pet to perform a trick for a treat. This not only engenders good feelings between the new person and your dog but allows your favorite canine to show off.
Display a Pet FAQ Sign
One of the best ways to make family gatherings pleasant for both pets, pet parents, and their guests is to display a short list of ways to act with your pet. Use a festive chalkboard and include just a few guidelines for a happy visit, such as:
- Rocco loves table scraps, but please don’t give him any. We promise he’ll receive an amazing Thanksgiving dinner!
- Scribbles needs a lot of ‘me time’. She’ll visit you if she’d like some snuggles.
- If you see CoCo by the door, don’t open it, but please tell Anna.
A little bit of information and preparedness can create a lot of harmony between your guests and your pet resulting in a wonderful family gathering.