During all the holidays this season, it is important to take into account how our companion animals will be affected by the changes in our routines.
For those of us travelling, please keep in mind that animals do get lonely and miss us when left at home alone (cats) or in boarding situations (dogs.) Usually dogs are better off because they need someone to walk them several times a day, so they receive attention then, but they will still miss us. Make sure you always ask/hire a trusted caretaker. It is also nice when dogs can stay with friends or family who have dogs they get along with well, but only if they are comfortable with the all the animals in the host household.
There tends to be a misconception that cats are perfectly fine if they are just left for several days (or longer) with enough food, water & fresh litter in the box. This may be sufficient for their physical needs, but they also have emotional needs. Try to have a trusted person come to check on them at least once a day, ideally someone who is familiar with your cats and the type of attention they need. Especially if you have a single cat, he or she will feel very alone without you and depend on the daily visits to stay positive emotionally. Even if they don’t snuggle or “play” much with the caretaker, it helps them to have someone visit & talk to them, for at least 25-30 minutes, longer if possible.
You can also telepathically/energetically check in with your animal companions while you are away. Picture them in your mind, send them love and talk to them the way you would if they were in front of you. Remind them that you will be home in __amount of days and not to worry. Even if you can’t “hear” them they can usually receive your message and that is comforting for them. Before you leave town always explain where you are going, for how long and reassure them that you will return.
If you have visitors for the holidays, especially large groups, think about how that affects your animal companions too. Try to have their food bowls in an area that does not have much foot traffic. Having someone they do not know well standing in front of their food (or water) may deter them from it. If you have indoor-only kitties make sure guests know to never leave an open door unattended. Never assume that anyone automatically knows to do this. If your dogs like to greet guests enthusiastically that is fine. Simply warn the guests in advance and be grateful that you have such a friendly dog. Don’t send the message that your dog is doing something wrong. They are simply doing what they feel is their part to be welcoming & most likely genuinely excited to see/meet your guests. If it really creates an issue or goes on for too long simply & without reproach re-direct their attention with another activity.
If you have older dogs or cats that move slowly make sure guests are careful not to accidentally bump into them or step on their tails. If you are having a very large party it may be safer to confine them to an area of the house where most guests will not go, like a bedroom. Try to check on them & always let them know what is going on.
Setting expectations is a great way to make sure everyone is comfortable and happy. Protecting the comfort of your animal companions in the home you share is key and your guests will have a wonderful time with the understanding that they are helping you keep your fur kids safe and knowing all are equally valued members of the family. This in turn allows you to be calm & to focus on hosting & enjoying a fantastic gathering.