How to Prep Your Jittery Pets for Holiday Guests
Having guests over? Help ensure entertaining is smooth sailing for all your loved ones, furry or otherwise.
If you’re hosting tons of family, friends, and neighbors over the holidays, make sure your pet is ready for all the excitement, and that any guests are aware of your four-legged family member. Sweep the house for potential allergens, make a plan for keeping pets calm when the doorbell rings, and create quiet pockets around the house for shy pets to escape from the bustle of activity. Here’s everything you and your family can do to keep jittery pets calm and happy, your home clean, and your guests safe and comfortable.
Keep allergies in mind during your holiday home preparations. Let guests know in advance that you have pets; they may want to take allergy meds for a couple of days before they arrive. When cleaning, wipe all surfaces to help remove dander, use a vacuum with a HEPA filter on your floors, and consider washing or steam cleaning your rugs. You may want to bathe your pet and, if necessary, confine him to a separate area while your guests are visiting. If you have forced-air heating, cover the vents with cheesecloth to help keep allergens from spreading.
Help make animal-allergic guests more comfortable by filtering out dander and other airborne allergens with a high-quality air purifier ($282; amazon.com).
Ideally, visitors would pet your dog only when he's sitting quietly with all four paws on the floor, but that's a lot to ask of excited animal lovers. So if your pup tends to jump on visitors or bark at them as they enter, either keep him on a leash or put him behind a baby gate (or in an exercise pen) until he's calm. You can also tempt him away from guests by giving him a chew toy, puzzle toy, or frozen treat.
Here’s a fun, wobbly pet toy you can fill with kibble or treats to keep your dog occupied while you greet guests ($21; amazon.com).
If you have a shy pet, designate a place for her to hide while guests are over. For cats, this could be a room set up with things she needs, like water, treats, toys, and a litter box—just make sure you get her used to being in there beforehand. For dogs, try a small shelter in the living or dining room. Educate your guests: One of the best ways to approach a cat is to crouch down and extend a finger. If she's up for it, she'll likely touch you with her nose and rub her cheek on you. Have guests toss treats to your dog so they land a few feet behind him.
This peekaboo tunnel toy can make your shy cat feel invisible, even when she’s in the middle of the action ($21; chewy.com).
Small guests should be allowed to shower your guy with all the love he wants—under supervision. For everyone's safety, don't leave pets alone around young children, and don't let kids near your pet's food, treats, or bed. If your cat is cool with little humans, ask the child to gently stroke his head, neck, or under his chin. Dogs usually like to be petted under their chin or around their chest. All guests should avoid the top of a dog's head, his paws, and the lower half of his body.
- Marilyn Krieger, certified cat behavior consultant and author of Naughty No More!
- Neeta Ogden, MD, allergy, asthma, and immunology specialist and spokesperson for The American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology
- Michael Shikashio, dog behavior consultant and owner of Complete Canines in Mystic, Connecticut