The holidays are upon us, and what a better time to spend time with friends, family and our pets! Whether you’re hosting or planning on being a guest, navigating what to do with your pet can be tricky. Should you lock away Fluffy when your cat-hating mother-in-law comes to town? Or is it okay to bring Fido to a holiday gathering that you’d otherwise have to hire a dogsitter for?
Good pet parenting means adhering to a certain etiquette that goes beyond just controlling your animal. Pet lovers tend to forget that some people are scared of dogs or are grossed out by cats on countertops. During the holidays, stress-levels are high enough, so keeping a few pet etiquette tips in mind will help avoid a blowup or a meltdown this season.
Tame the Mane
Pet parents are used to having excess fur floating around the corners of the house, on furniture and all over their clothes. Unless you have a very specific breed of dog or cat that doesn’t shed or is hairless, you can count on fur being everywhere. Sure, your cat has his own bed, but would rather sleep on your sweaters — naturally!
To combat excess fur, bathe or groom your pet a day or two before your guests arrive. Added plus: your cat or dog will feel super soft and smell great for when people cuddle and pet them! If you know trying to bathe your cat will end in a feline tantrum, consider pet wipes that are less offensive to them. You may want to trim your cat’s nails, too. If your cat encounters an unwelcome guest, he or she might get swiped at, and nail trimming will help reduce the ‘ouch’ factor.
Also good tips: hang your guests’ coats up so your pets don’t lie on them and keep a lint roller handy just in case someone asks for one.
Keep Cats Off the Counters and Tables
Here’s another example of good cat etiquette: Keep them off of places where food is prepared and eaten. When guests see your cat walking on the table or on countertops, they may imagine kitty litter paws all over their food. And while we think it’s quaint when Ms. Whiskers drinks out of the faucet in the kitchen sink, your guest might think, “Ugh, disgusting!”
While pet owners aren’t easily grossed out by their pets (otherwise, how could we possibly deal?) other people might be. It’s important to keep that in mind as a host, and if you aren’t sure, ask. Always be mindful that your guests may not want your pet near them, on them or around their food. While brings us to…
Keep Animals Away From the Table
Both cats and dogs can lack etiquette around visiting family and a table full of roasted meat and scrumptious sides. Really, who can resist mashed potatoes? While a few meows here and there or a big wet nose popping up between your legs at the table is cute, it can be annoying to some guests. If your pet isn’t trained not to beg from the dinner table, consider separating them while the feast is in full swing. You can give them their own special meal to enjoy elsewhere while everyone is eating.
Discourage Jumping Up
Jumping up can be a hard habit to break. Some simple tips can help improve your pet’s etiquette on this, though. When entering a room, hold your hands out above their head to physically discourage them from getting past your hand height. If that doesn’t work, turn your body away from them, so that they are forced to fall back down to the floor level. Use positive reinforcement and reward them when they have shown good dog etiquette around visiting family.
Always Ask First
When you’re going to be the guest, it’s important to always ask if your pet is invited to the party. Even if you’ve brought your dog to your aunt’s house before, it’s always good etiquette to check in with her before you head over. Your host may find an extra four-legged guest stressful or have other guests in attendance with allergies. And don’t get offended if the answer is no. It’s not about you, or your dog. It’s about your host and what kind of party she’s throwing! So make arrangements for Fido, bring a bottle of wine and prepare to have a great time. Happy Holidays!