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Pet-Friendly Gathering Tips

Hosting holidays can be fun yet highly stressful for our families. The host is in charge of organizing invitations, preparing the home, planning enough seating, designing the menu, managing guest contributions, and more. Amid the holiday frenzy, don’t forget to consider your pets when hosting holiday gatherings. Here's our guide to pet-friendly gathering tips and hosting dos and don'ts.

Pet-Friendly Gathering Tips: Sights, Smells & Sounds

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The first thing to consider when planning a holiday at your home is that your pets will be exposed to lots of sights, smells, and sounds. Some sights, smells, and sounds will be familiar to them, while others will not. Because their senses are overloaded with food, people, loud discussion, and other unfamiliar experiences, our cats and dogs can become easily overwhelmed during holiday gatherings.

We recommend that you create a safe place for your pet to retreat to when they feel the need. Their safe space can be a closet in your bedroom, a crate in the study, or a window seat on a high shelf. Whatever your pet tends to gravitate toward when stressed is a great way to allow them to decompress during your event. 

Pet-Friendly Gathering Tips: Pushy Interactions

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Many people love pets and are excited at the opportunity to meet yours when they visit. Unfortunately, however, not all people know how to properly greet pets. Especially if you have an anxious dog, undersocialized cat, or cautious pet of any species, plan to give your guests a heads up on how to properly interact with your pet before their arrival. By giving them guidelines, you can set your pet and your guest up for success. Your guidelines may include recommendations similar to the following:

"Please avoid large, sudden movements around Butch. He's very cautious of new people."

“Please let Misty approach you before petting her.”

“Please avoid petting Charlie near the hind quarters where his arthritis aches.”

“Please do not feed Titan and Sox any snacks because we are training them to not beg at the table.”

Most people know how to behave around other people, but they may need some help when it comes to engaging with pets.

Pet-Friendly Gathering Tips: Bite & Loss Prevention

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If you find your pet is confused by the many people vying for their attention, give them a break from the crowd. It’s better to prevent overstimulation and reactivity to stimuli than to allow it to play out in front of you. Your pet will thank you for having a safe space with calming music and an enrichment toy ready for them when the time comes. 

When kids are involved, consider having your pets in a safe space near your guests and supervise all pet/kid interactions. You never want to have a worst-case scenario play out at your family celebration. Don’t count on parents to set boundaries with your pets. Instead, make prevention and management your priority in these cases. 

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Focus on your pet's body language during interactions. Whale eye (pictured right) indicates uneasiness and could be a sign that a pet is overwhelmed or fearful. A cat pulling away like in the photo above is also a sign that a pet is uncomfortable with the interaction. These initial signs should be addressed to prevent bites, scratches, and other accidental injuries.

Finally, keep doors and gates closed to prevent lost pets during your event. Zip ties on exterior doors might be a great way to keep a guest from leaving a gate open. And, placing signage at your front door to remind guests to walk in carefully, not ring the doorbell, etc. are great ways to communicate expectations without having to be present for every interaction and activity. 

Pet-Friendly Gathering Tips: Proactive Planning

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When possible, assign one of your pet’s favorite people to observe and respond to your pets’ needs throughout the event. The person assigned to this task should not be cooking the meal or catering to guests. They should, instead, commit to being vigilant about each pet’s behavior and ready to step in as needed.

The person assigned to observe and respond to your pets’ needs should also feel comfortable guiding guests around each pet's boundaries. And, their assigned human should know what the pet needs to remain at ease, whether it be a rigorous play session, a calming treat, prescribed medication, or a walk around the block.

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At Hearts at Home, we know that bringing your loved ones and beloved pets together can be very exciting. After all, your pets are family! If you think, however, that your pet may need a break during an important gathering, please contact us. We would be happy to help make your event a success for everyone, your pets included, by stopping by to engage with and care for your pets before or during the event.

Please note that our renowned dog walking and pet sitting services are quickly booking up for the remainder of 2023. Please submit pet care requests as soon as possible to ensure availability.

If you are new to Hearts at Home, please complete a new client questionnaire here. For more information, visit our website or contact us by email at or by phone at 757-745-9868. We are limiting the number of new clients we can take at this point but are happy to get things started for 2024.

Our pet sitters and dog walkers provide in-home pet care services for Yorktown, Poquoson, Newport News and Hampton, Virginia.

We hope you found our guide to pet-friendly gatherings: hosting dos and don'ts helpful and wish you a wonderful holiday season!!!

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