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Full Bellies and Hearts: Involving Your Pet in Thanksgiving

By Sarah Sypniewski

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Thanksgiving will be here before we know it. As you make your plans for this day of feasting and gratitude, consider these ideas for how to safely involve your pet in the festivities.

Thanksgiving Foods to Avoid Giving Your Pet

Thanksgiving was practically MADE for your pet – it’s all about eating! When you’re putting together your menu and shopping list, why not include something special for your furry little beast?

If you have too much going on in the kitchen to add yet another dish, that’s okay; you can always put together a little plate for your pet from the main menu – just make sure you know what foods to avoid:

  • Bones
  • Raw or undercooked turkey
  • Fat trimmings
  • Onion
  • Garlic
  • Sage
  • Raisins & grapes
  • Chocolate
  • Mushrooms
  • Beer

This list is not exhaustive, always do your own research so you know exactly how to feed your pet safely, Take a few minutes to do that – it could literally save their life!

Another word of caution: don’t go overboard – a little will go a long way. Also, it might be a good idea to ask your pet-loving guests not to feed them table scraps, explaining that they’ll be getting their own serving.

If you are in doubt, check with your vet. And if you think your pet has eaten something they’re not supposed to, know when and how to use pet poison prevention centers.

Donation to Pets in Need

Aside from stuffing ourselves with food on Thanksgiving, we also tend to stuff ourselves full of gratitude. Many people donate to local food banks around this time, or even spend the day volunteering at a soup kitchen. Involve your pet by making a donation in their name to a local animal shelter or rescue.

Donations don’t have to be monetary – shelters and rescues can often utilize donations of:

  • Food
  • Blankets
  • Crates
  • Toys
  • Leashes
  • Newspaper
  • Sheets

Visit their website or give them a call first to find out what they can use – you don’t want to donate something they can’t (for example, some shelters don’t have a way to launder blankets,). Whatever you can give is guaranteed to make a lonely, homeless pet a little happier and healthier.

If you really want to get involved, all shelters and rescues need volunteers. How about spending a day giving the shelter animals fresh, clean kennels, walking dogs, or playing with kittens? If you’re really in a position to help an animal less fortunate than your pet, inquire about becoming a foster parent – it’s a big commitment but it comes with a big reward. No one can adopt all of the homeless animals out there, but fostering one animal saves two lives: the one you bring into your home and the one who now can go into the shelter because a space opened up.

Include Your Pet in Your Family Photo

If you’re overdue for a family photo, Thanksgiving is a great time to get one since everyone will be together! Set your timer, pile everyone in one spot, and snap away. You can also take advantage of having your relatives around by asking if they’d take a few shots of you with your pet.

 The key to getting good pet photos is to keep clicking! Pets move around a lot (even if they’re just sitting), so it takes a lot of tries to get the shot. Get creative – ditch the straight-on shot in favor of shots playing fetch, backyard football, with that favorite feather toy, enjoying a post-meal nap, or watching the leaves fall in the front yard. There’s nothing wrong with getting some nice posed shots so you can make them into a holiday card later, but you’ll probably end up cherishing the shots that show your “real” moments more than anything.

Finally, use natural light as much as you can – everyone looks better in it. Plus, there are so many great colors outside now, you might as well take advantage of them before they disappear.

Thanksgiving Safety Tips

The last thing anyone wants is to spend Thanksgiving day in the ER or out on the streets looking for a pet who got out. Because I see and hear of split-second pet accidents all the time, here are a few tips to keep your holiday safe and happy:

  1. Keep updated tags and collars on your pet all day.
  2. Secure flight-risk pets in a closed room, at least while guest are arriving and leaving.
  3. Keep your pet out of the kitchen while you’re cooking (hot stuff can easily fall onto them or you if they get underfoot).
  4. Keep garbage up high, outside, or otherwise out of reach.
  5. Remind yourself with sticky notes or a cell phone alarm to walk, feed, and replenish your pet’s water bowl. It sounds silly, but hosting is very distracting to our normal routines and it’s easy to forget to do these simple but important things.
  6. Your personal vet may be enjoying the holiday as well, so have an emergency vet’s number handy in case of any incidents!

There are all sorts of other ways to celebrate safely and happily with your fuzzy friends, and we’d love to hear about your family traditions and ideas for a great Thanksgiving, so leave a comment below! Here’s to a Thanksgiving of full bellies and hearts!

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