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5 Ways to Celebrate the Holidays With Your Pet

Peggy Frezon shares how pet parents across the U.S. include their furry, finned and feathered family members in their holiday traditions.

Illustration of two yellow birds

They’re part of the family, so why not include your pets in your holiday celebrations? Here are five ways to make merry with your furry and feathered friends:

1. Give them gifts.

A new collar, comfy bed and seasonal toy are popular presents from Santa Paws. And edible treats are great stocking stuffers. (Think ornament dog cookies, Christmas tree-shaped bunny snacks, birdseed candy canes.) Deb Gorman of Albany, New York, and her family hold a Secret Santa gift exchange—just between their pets. Last year her cat, Emmeline, was matched with her sister’s basset hound mix, Sullivan, and gave him a squeaky pepperoni pizza slice. He thought it was the best present ever.

2. Share seasonal food.

You can find holiday-themed meals, like canned “Thanksgiving Day Dinner,” for cats and dogs, made with turkey, sweet potato, carrot, peas and cranberries. When only homemade will do, Lori Schneider of Hurleyville, New York, prepares a special Hanukkah latke for her dog, Laycee. Jodi Chick of Vancouver, Canada, spends extra time in the kitchen for her puggle, Kolchack, and mixed-breed, Felix: “The leftover Thanksgiving turkey becomes jerky. Sides such as unsweetened turnip, sweet potato and other veggies can be dehydrated or used in dog-friendly recipes.” Pure canned pumpkin (no pie filling!) is another healthy option.

3. Decorate their habitats.

Mimic your outdoor decorations (minus the lights) inside your pet’s cozy quarters. Abby Chesnut of Rome, Georgia, puts Christmas window cling decorations on her fish aquarium and lines her rat cages with snowflake print fleece. (No pet left behind here!) Decorate hamster and gerbil cages with wooden gnaw nibble garlands. For ferrets, try holiday-themed cuddle cups and hammocks. And nothing welcomes the Christmas spirit like a wreath. Make one out of hay for your rabbit!

4. Put your pet in your Christmas card.

The family photo makes a warm holiday greeting, and friends will want to see that new rescue you adopted during the Covid lockdown. Add pet names alongside those of mom, dad and the kids (“Love, Jack, Lisa, Timothy and Harry the hamster”). Jackie Bouchard of La Jolla, California, took it one step further: Her beagle, Bailey, “wrote” her Christmas newsletter. Proof it came from him? Bailey’s signature paw print. Kristine Tonks of Alberta, Canada, says she always gets a picture of her dogs, Shiva and Jynx, with Santa, “because it makes me laugh.” (Santa gets a kick out of it too.)

5. Dress them up (if they don’t mind).

Dogs have gotten in on their humans’ ugly sweater traditions, especially in colder climates where an extra layer can be essential. Some cats wear jingle bell collars year-round, but small pets might allow a little holiday dress-up too. Dawn Miklich of Forty Fort, Pennsylvania, took pictures of her very cooperative guinea pigs wearing teeny-tiny halos and wings. Reindeer antlers, anyone?

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