Thanksgiving Pet Safety: Your Furry Friend's Holiday Checklist

Get your pet's own Thanksgiving safety tips, including what they want, what they'd rather avoid, and the regrets they hope to skip during this festive feast!

Published October 24, 2023
Young man sitting at festive table with cat on lap

For you, Thanksgiving probably means great food and even better company, but for your pet, it might translate to too many visitors, irresistible smells, and tempting open doors. We’re taking a look at the holiday from your pet’s perspective, from the stuff they’d love to see, to what they’d regret later, to the things they downright want to avoid. Can you guess them all?

3 Things Your Pet Will Love

Consider including these in your holiday plan to keep your dog or cat happier and safer this Thanksgiving.

1. Staying at Home

This isn’t always possible, but if given the choice, most pets would prefer to stay at home for Thanksgiving weekend. Traveling can be stressful (particularly for dogs and cats who don’t travel much or don’t like crowds), and it can take several days for a pet to acclimate to a new environment. By then, the weekend is already over!

Consider your pet’s individual level of comfort with travel, new places, and groups of people when deciding if you should take your dog with you to Thanksgiving. Leaving them at home is usually the safest and most comfortable option if you're unsure of their reaction. Let them hang out on the couch while you’re away for dinner, or hire a pet sitter if you’ll be away all weekend.

2. A Pets-Only Zone

Having people over for dinner? Your pet would appreciate a safe haven. Create a space in your home, like a guest bedroom, closet, or dark corner of the room that is just for them. If they get overwhelmed, they can retreat there for a little alone time. Make sure it includes some of their favorite blankets or toys so they feel at ease. Dogs and cats who don't like strangers may prefer to just stay in this room all day, with the door closed.

Quick Tip

Let kids and nosy adults know this area is off-limits for people so they don’t wander off and invade your pet’s space.

3. Emergency Preparedness

Thanksgiving and the day after are two of the busiest days for emergency veterinarians — and I’m sure you and your pet would rather avoid the trip. But make sure you know where to go ahead of time, just in case. Research emergency veterinary hospitals in your area that are open on holidays (since most regular clinics aren’t) and have the Pet Poison Helpline or ASPCA Poison Control Center phone numbers on hand. You always hope you won’t need them, but if you do, you’ll be happy you are prepared.

4 Things Your Pet Will Regret Later

There are things your pet would love in the moment (hello, turkey carcass!) but would most definitely regret later (and hello, pancreatitis). Help your dog or cat "just say no" to these temptations — you'll both feel better if you do.

1. Eating Tons of Table Scraps

Sure, your dog would love nothing more than for everyone at the table to sneak them a few bites of turkey and ‘taters, but they’d definitely regret it later. And so will you. Eating anything out of the ordinary, even if it’s inherently healthy, can upset your pup’s tummy and potentially lead to vomiting and/or diarrhea. Both are just as uncomfortable for them as they are frustrating for you to clean up. If you're dead-set on including your dog in your Thanksgiving meal, consider these foods that are safer in moderation, but stick to tiny treats over full-on portions.

2. Counter Surfing

The smells of turkey, stuffing, and mashed potatoes are enough to urge even the laziest dog to stand on their tippy toes and do some counter-surfing. Even though it’ll taste delicious, a lot of these Thanksgiving treats have toxic ingredients that are dangerous for dogs and cats. Keep all dishes covered and away from counter edges, or in the case of jumpers, keep all food safely in the fridge or oven.

3. Raiding the Garbage

Your Thanksgiving trash can is absolutely irresistible to pets, especially if they’re dogs. While everyone is out playing football or in the family room watching a movie, that’s their opportunity to pounce. But turkey bones, fatty pieces of meat, and rotten food are a recipe for disaster. If your pet ingests these, they can become very sick. Tie the bag up and take it directly to your outside trash can to avoid any trash raiding.

4. Open Doors

Guests coming in and out, or doors being opened to air out the kitchen, can give your pet an opportunity to find an adventure. Be diligent about watching all doors, or, better yet, keep your pet in their safe haven area. It might not be as fun for dogs or cats who like to be social, but it’ll definitely keep them from getting lost or overwhelmed.

Quick Tip

Put a sign on your door to let guests know to watch for door dashers and make sure all pets (even indoor cats) have updated microchip information as well as a collar with an ID tag.

2 Things Your Pet Wants to Avoid

Your pet might not put their paw down very often, but these two things are big Thanksgiving no-nos for some dogs and cats.

1. Costumes

Yes, they’re absolutely adorable, and some pets don't mind them. But for many dogs and cats, the moment you pull out that little turkey costume is filled with dread. If your pet doesn't mind and you want to dress them up for a quick photo, OK. But avoid forcing a pet who doesn't like it or keeping any pet in an uncomfortable costume all night.

2. Too Many Visitors

No matter how socialized or friendly your pet is, tons of people in their space can overwhelm them. If you’re planning to have a large group of people over, consider how your pet will react. It might be most comfortable for them to stay in their safe haven all day. If family is sleeping over, consider whether your pet would like to take a holiday for the weekend, like with a pet sitter or at a boarding facility they’re already familiar with.

Family with dog at Thanksgiving dinner

Your Pet Will Thank You

Every critter is an individual, so make sure you take your dog or cat's comfort level into consideration this Thanksgiving. If you know they enjoy traveling and love large groups of people, then, sure, it’s probably fine to bring them along with you to a Friendsgiving celebration. But if they stress easily, it’s best to avoid situations that would make them uncomfortable. You know your pet best. 

Thanksgiving Pet Safety: Your Furry Friend's Holiday Checklist