How to make Thanksgiving a happy holiday for your pets

They don’t have to clear the table or do the dishes after the Thanksgiving feast, but your pets can be susceptible to some of the same holiday hazards as people, including stress from entertaining guests and overindulging. The Seattle Animal Shelter wants to help you make Thanksgiving a safe one for the furry members of your family, by offering a handful of holiday tips.

“Holidays are stressful enough,” said Dr. Mary Ellen Zoulas, medical director of the Spay and Neuter Clinic at the shelter. “The last thing you want to deal with after a long day of cooking, entertaining and cleaning is a cat or dog that is sick from stress or overeating.”

General Tips
Keep the stress level down. This is as important for your pets as it is for you.

  • Stick as closely as possible to your normal routine. Try not to vary the times you feed, walk or play with your pet.
  • If possible, give your pet a little special attention before any guests arrive at your home or prior to leaving, if you plan to feast elsewhere.
  • If you are hosting Thanksgiving, remember that not everyone is comfortable around dogs and that your dog may not be comfortable with unfamiliar people.
  • Give your pet a place to retreat to if things become too noisy or hectic for him. This may be his crate or a room that is safe and away from the flow of traffic. Make sure that you provide fresh water and a litter box for your cat. To make sure your pet doesn’t feel ignored, give him something to keep him occupied like a made-for-dog chew-bone or a toy your cat likes to play with on his own.

Thanksgiving food can be a minefield for your dog or cat.

  • Scraps from the table should not be given to your dog or cat either intentionally or by accident. Keep an eye on those picky eaters who want to “share” with your pets.
  • There are a number of foods that are absolutely off limits for your dog or cat. These include (but may not be limited to):
    • Turkey bones
    • Turkey skin
    • Raw turkey
    • Bread dough
    • Raw batter (cake or cookie)
    • Onions – raw or cooked
    • Garlic
    • Chocolate
    • Walnuts and macadamia nuts
    • Mushrooms
    • Nutmeg
    • Sage or other herbs that contain essential oils. Cats are especially sensitive.
  • Never give your dog or cat alcohol. Be selfish and save the alcohol for your own pleasure.
  • Remember that your floral arrangement on the table may look like a fresh salad to your cat, so keep him from taking a mouthful or two.
  • One man’s garbage may be your pet’s treasure. Make sure that the string, foil, paper, butter wrapper, plastic coverings and bones that you intend to throw away do not get foraged and scavenged by your pet. They are crafty creatures and can eat the unthinkable in the blink of an eye.

“Despite all my good advice, I have found that I am absolutely unable to ignore the pleading eyes of my dog or the plaintive mews of my grandcat,” said Dr. Zoulas.

With that in mind, Dr. Zoulas offers these acceptable ways to include your pet in Thanksgiving:

  • You may give your dog a few small boneless pieces of cooked turkey, a taste of mashed potato, green beans, sweet potatoes or even a tongue-swipe of pumpkin pie. The operative words here are “few” and “small.” Like us, pets will pay for overindulgence/overeating of Thanksgiving treats.
  • You may share Thanksgiving with your cat by giving him a sliver of cooked white turkey meat or cooked giblet. Rather than pie, give him a taste of plain canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix).

Most importantly, enjoy the holiday! Best wishes for a happy Thanksgiving to all.

The Seattle Animal Shelter, located at 2061 15th Ave. W., is open Tuesday through Sunday, noon to 6 p.m. for adoptions. The shelter will be closed on Thursday and Friday for the City-observed holidays. For more information, call 206-386-PETS (7387) or visit