10894761684?profile=RESIZE_710xThe holidays can be a trying time for pets. Be on the lookout for changes in behavior or eating habits that may be signs of stress. Photo provided

By Arden Moore

Face it, our dogs and cats are definitely creatures of habit. You may swear they sport invisible watches as they try to herd you into the kitchen about five minutes before their meal time. You may notice that your cat naps on the cat tree in the morning and heads for a snooze session on the sofa in the afternoon. Or, your dog has an uncanny way of knowing when you are heading to work or about to take him on a walk based on which shoes you put on.
As the holiday season shifts into high gear, routines get disrupted and that can affect your pet’s attitude, appetite and behavior. Emerging from the pandemic, many of us look forward to hosting or attending social gatherings. And, many of us finally feel safe to travel and may opt to have our pets cared for by a professional pet sitter or boarded at a reputable pet boarding facility.
More changes. New sights, sounds and smells. So, to help you — and your pets — keep the holidays from transforming into the yowl-i-days, I gift you a holiday survival guide.
Be on the lookout for signs of holiday stress in your pets. Among the signs are:
• Loss of appetite.
• Lip licking and/or yawning.
• Hiding, cowering or ignoring your “come” calls.
• Urinating or defecating outside the litter box and in the house after years of displaying stellar potty habits.
• Becoming destructive by shredding the toilet paper or chewing on sofa pillows or the stack of mail you left on the coffee table.
• Transforming into a clingy pet who shadows your every step in the house.
Even though you know and welcome relatives and friends, recognize that your pets may not and could react with loud barks or dashes under the bed when guests enter through the front door. Consider keeping your pet in a closed, cozy room like a bedroom with some favorite toys, bedding and water before house guests arrive. Once the guests settle in, let your pets meet them when they are in a calmer state of mind.
And, a week or two before overnight guests arrive, relocate your cat’s litter box from the spare bedroom to a quiet, safe area to give your cat time to adjust.
There is a long list of no-no holiday foods for pets. No one wants to spend the holidays at the veterinary emergency hospital with a pet who ate something poisonous or dangerous, like a turkey bone, or incurred painful pancreatitis from eating greasy, highly seasoned foods.
Big no-nos: gravy and meat drippings, turkey skin and bones, pumpkin pie, chocolate, nuts, alcoholic drinks, onions, stuffing, and any holiday foods containing the artificial sweetener xylitol (also goes by the name of birch sugar).
Safe holiday foods for pets: cooked turkey meat rinsed of any seasoning, plain mashed potatoes (minus butter or salt), unseasoned cooked green beans, dried cranberries, and unseasoned cooked pumpkin and sweet potatoes.

Sitters and boarding
I reached out to a pair of local professionals for advice on these and other topics. Both agree that you need to book sooner rather than later, as this time of year gets very busy.
Denise Purificato has owned A Best Friend Pet Sitting Inc. for 15 years. Her professional pet sitting squad provides dog walks, pet visits and more in Boca Raton and Delray Beach.
“There are so many ways we need to keep our pets healthy and safe when decorating over the holidays,” she says. “My top tips for pet parents this holiday season are to be aware of the popular holiday plants like poinsettias, holly and mistletoe that are all dangerous to pets if accidentally ingested.”
Her second tip: “Giving your pets a sense of their normal routine is really important during the holidays with so much activity going on. To reduce stress in your pet, try to keep their meal times consistent and do not skip a meal or feed them late.”
To keep the holidays jolly for you and your pet, she suggests that you take your dogs for daily walks; provide your pet with a new, pet-safe holiday toy, and book one-on-one play sessions to fend off stress in you both. Learn more at www.abestfriendpetsitting.com.
Katie Glazier is the director of operations at Dog Unleashed in Boynton Beach. This facility offers dog day care, boarding and grooming and features Boynton Beach’s first spacious indoor dog park.
She and her staff ensure dogs in day care or boarding feel safe and happy.
“All dogs undergo temperament tests and we offer several types of play groups,” says Glazier. “Our pups are never left unattended and are consistently getting body checks by our staff throughout the day to ensure they have no injuries or marks from rough play.”
To help canine guests celebrate Christmas, the Dog Unleashed staff serves up a special dinner that includes homemade turkey, sweet potatoes, green beans and pumpkin — all unseasoned. Of course, any dietary restrictions are factored in.
“Another fun tradition we have is to have our professional photographer come before Christmas to get pictures of our doggy guests with Santa,” Glazier adds.
Learn more at https://dogunleashed.pet.

Best gift of all
What’s the best gift to give your pet this holiday season? Quality time spent with you. Step away from the holiday bustle for even five uninterrupted minutes a day to cuddle or play together.
From my furry crew of dogs Kona and Emma plus cats Casey, Mikey, Rusty and Baxter, I wish you and your pets a pawsome, safe holiday season!

Arden Moore is an author, professional speaker and master certified pet first-aid instructor. She hosts a weekly syndicated radio show, “Arden Moore’s Four Legged Life” (www.fourleggedlife.com), and the “Oh Behave!” podcast on Pet Life Radio. To learn more, visit www.ardenmoore.com.

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