Thanksgiving Tips for Pet Owners
Important advice, helpful tips and a list of what you can and cannot feed your dogs and cats this holiday season
Cats and dogs are doing the drumstick happy dance because it’s Thanksgiving—the best holiday of the year for a smorgasbord of treats. And with their keen sense of smell versus ours (dogs have around 300 million olfactory receptors; cats 200 million; people just 5 million), the magnificent aroma of roasted turkey, mashed potatoes, candied yams and fresh-baked pumpkin pie could drive them nuttier than the fruitcake that’s being served next month.
Although your attention is the best treat you can give your dog or cat any day of the week, by keeping these few don’ts in mind, you can spoil your pet with a sumptuous repast—just like you do other members of your family during this special time of year.
Thanksgiving “Don’ts” For Pets
Don’t give in
As your four-pawed family members wait anxiously for their place at the holiday feast, giving you hopeful looks for tidbits as you prepare dinner, it’s easy to cave. But if you succumb, sneaking them a little bit of this and a little bit of that, in no time at all they’ll consume much more than their daily caloric allowance—and they won’t even have had dinner yet. Stand your ground. Pet your buddies, give them kisses and tell them they’ll get their Thanksgiving pets celebration meal soon.
Don’t leave food within reach
When it’s time to set the dining-room table, as you exit the kitchen make sure you haven’t left food on the counter where your pet can get at it. Just turn your back for one minute and your quick-change artist pet can easily walk away with your well-planned dinner. Also, keep the trash outside the kitchen door. Your pets are not snooty when it comes to filling their tummies and you don’t want to ruin the beautiful day by running to a 24-hour emergency vet clinic because your pup is choking on a thrown-away cooked bone.
Don’t let others sneak goodies to your pet
During the meal, advise your guests, especially grandparents and children, to PLEASE avoid slipping food under the table. Your kitty may decide to snub her nose at what’s being proffered but not your pup. Even though you’ve trained your dog not to beg, it doesn’t take any pooch long to deduce who’s handing out the treats.
Don’t overdo it
Remember that moderation is the key to sharing in the feast.
Thanksgiving Foods and Pets
Here’s what you can and can’t put in your dog’s or cat’s dish.
✅ Thanksgiving Foods Safe for Dogs
- Premade gravy for dogs
- Canned (organic) pumpkin
- Unseasoned mashed sweet potatoes without butter
- Cooked, shredded turkey breast without the skin
- Unseasoned green beans
- Unseasoned carrots (raw or cooked)
- Peeled and seeded apple slices
✅ Thanksgiving Foods Safe for Cats
- Boiled turkey kidney
- Boiled turkey liver
- Boiled turkey heart
- Cooked turkey meat
- (You can also try giving your cat unseasoned cooked veggies, like carrots, green beans, pumpkin or squash, but some persnickety cats just won’t eat vegetables.)
❌ Thanksgiving Foods Harmful for Pets
- Artifical sweeteners (and foods that contain them)
- Cooked bones
- Heavy fats
- Mashed potatoes (for cats—many are lactose intolerant)
- Raw bread dough
- Raw eggs
- Turkey skin
- Xylitol (found in such things as mushrooms, lettuce, berries and corn)
Other Thanksgiving Pets Advice
Thanksgiving Away From Home
If you’re headed to grandma’s or a friend’s house for Thanksgiving, it’s important to give a heads-up that you would like to bring your pooch with you prior to your visit. This is not the time for “Oops. I forgot to mention Charlie, our 95-pound Mastiff, will be coming with us.”
If you get the OK to have your pet join in the fun, bring your dog’s portable bed, blanket, favorite toy, food and dog bowl—and let your host know that you are bringing these items.
Don’t bring your pup to someone else’s home if she is not house-trained or is antsy around children, other people or dogs.
If this is an out-of-town trip, bring a printed copy of your dog’s latest vet records. Place them in the carrier to expedite finding them in case of an emergency. Providing this printout to vets and staff at the emergency clinic can contribute to faster and better treatment.
Is your dog or cat uneasy around lots of people, especially toddlers? Perhaps it would be best to put your woofer or kitty into a separate part of the house. Get a treat or a familiar toy and move your dog or cat bed into the designated room. This will keep your pets safe until the party is over.
Include Your Pet
Purchase a puzzle, chew or toy that your pet loves. You can keep your dog busy with little turkey bits in a Kong; your cat with a box or paper bag. Let them know this special day includes all family members.
Walk it Off
It’s important to walk your dog after any uncustomary dinner, especially this one. He is not used to these foods in his daily routine. One of the best ways to process a high-calorie meal is a long walk. You will feel better about the proverbial “pig out” and your woofer will appreciate the exercise.