The holidays are naturally a time of year when we want to gather with friends and family, and so many of them are clustered around the late fall leading up to winter that we have plenty of opportunities.
This time of year, of course, is when hours of daylight began to get shorter and shorter and, in times when we lived in a world lit only by fire, our human schedules tended to follow the Sun.
But this is how the end of the year became the time to gather together, feast on the abundance the Earth (and our farmers) had given us, and remember that, despite the darkness, the Sun would be coming back in about three months.
In modern times, with electric lights and what is effectively a year-round harvest, we’ve lost those elements, but we still have the rituals and, if you’re like the typical pet parents, you want to include your fur kids in the celebrations as much as possible.
Holiday PAWty time
Of course, you don’t have to limit your holiday gatherings to just your human friends and family, and a lot of people do throw holiday parties for their cats and dogs — although it’s generally a good idea to hold these separately even if your own inter-species pack gets along famously.
As public events, these seem to be very popular in the UK for some reason, and in recent years, there have been events in London specifically for pugs, Pomeranians, and dachshunds, an upcoming canine Christmas Party at the interestingly named (to Americans) Watergate Café in Tyne and Wear, and, back in 2018, a pub party for dogs and their humans at Smith & Whistle, in which all guests were invited to wear their most festive holiday sweaters, regardless of number of legs.
Of course, your pet party can be a DIY affair in your own home with a hand-selected guest list — maybe inviting that bossy or aggressive dog isn’t the greatest idea, but those mellow Lab twins and charming German shepherd will fit right in.
As with anything, knowing the personalities involved is the first key to creating the perfect guest list. If you have human kids, I’m sure you’ve gone through the same thing with birthday parties when your child insists on “friends” to not invite, and it’s sort of the same thing with pets. It all comes down to “We don’t get along.” The uninvited cats and dogs and their parents will not take it personally at all.
Party games can be indoor or outdoor, although it all depends on the weather where you are. If you’re under four feet of snow, then outdoor games are probably out of the question unless you want to challenge your dogs to some snow fetch — not a good idea if it’s really powdery, though.
In more temperate climes, outdoor games can involve things like fetch; tug-of-war with teams of two dogs vying against each other in elimination rounds until the final playoff; obstacle course; “catch the treat” (exactly what it sounds like); flying disc; and on and on. You can find plenty of suggestions by searching online.
Indoor games, naturally, need to be more subdued, but they can also be more interesting. For example, have your dog show off their best party trick. Can they balance a treat on their nose? Walk on their back legs? Dance? Talk in seemingly real words? Play dead on command?
Whatever it is, select a panel of judges, have all the dogs show off their tricks, and then award “medals” (or treats and toys) to the top three.
For cats, use that cat tree for climbing to find the treat contests, or play a game of musical boxes — put boxes on the floor with one less box than the number of cats. The cat who doesn’t manage to get into a box is eliminated. Remove one box and repeat until there’s a winner.
A fun game that involves both pets and humans is “How Well Do You Know Your Fur Baby?” This can take on a few forms, but it basically involves predicting your dog’s or cat’s behavior, then testing it.
For example, have two hidden toy options, like a ball and a squeaky or a plush and a rope toy, then predict which one your dog or cat will go for first. (Remember: “Neither” is always an option.) You can do the same with things like standard pet treats — chicken stick vs. meaty treat — or even non-traditional items, like pet-friendly fruits and vegetables — cauliflower or broccoli; strawberry or melon.
The human with the most correct guesses wins.
Finally, you can always play hide-and-seek indoors with your pets. Well, your dogs mostly, because your cats won’t look until they need food or clean litter. Designated non-players will keep the dogs in a certain room while the humans hide.
After a certain period of time, it’s “Unleash the hounds,” with prizes going to the dog who finds their person the fastest, the one who finds their human in the most unlikely or difficult spot, and the “Well, you tried,” consolation prize to the dog who doesn’t look or doesn’t find at all.
Okay, so much for the parties. What about the gifts?
Pets and holiday presents
When it came to giving gifts to our pets, 2020 was a boom year for one big reason: The pandemic and lockdowns, as well as the increase in people working remotely or not working, meant that we all spent a lot more time at home with our pets — both the ones we had before it all started and the ones we adopted or fostered during.
2021 doesn’t look like it’s going to be any different. Thanks to the COVID-related increases, the U.S. pet industry reached a volume of $99 billion in 2020, and it’s still too early to tell what 2021 will show.
So what do people get their pets for the holidays? A little bit of everything. Dog and cat toys are always very popular, and there are versions for every pet’s preference, whether you have a dog who likes rubber squeaky toys, the challenge of a Kong, or a durable and long-lasting bone, or your cat is into fascinators, stuffed mice, or cat-nip stuffed balls. You can always find the perfect toy for your pet.
Don’t forget the treats! These are always a very popular item — for gifter and giftee alike — so stock up on your pet’s favorites and surprise them on Christmas morning.
There are also pet clothing and accessories, with the former being useful if you live in a very cold area and need to bundle your fur baby up before they go outside. Or is it time for a new collar, leash, or tags? The holidays are the perfect excuse to upgrade.
Another great gift idea that will keep on giving for a long time for your pets is a new bed and blanket, especially if the old one is starting to not look its best. But don’t throw the old one out — it will make the perfect “second bed” so that your dog or cat has a comfy place to hang out in the family room.
If you want to make gift-giving extra fun, you can even wrap the presents and let your dog or cat open them, although keep two things in mind.
First, you don’t want to do the perfect department store professional job on them with all the creases perfect and tape hidden under the seams. You want to wrap them loosely so that it’s very easy for your dog or cat to get an idea that there’s something neat inside and to remove the paper.
The second and most important thing: Make sure your pet doesn’t take this unwrapping as license to go after every gift in the house. It’s really the same as giving them a treat: Make them sit and wait, hand it to them, and then keep them out of the people stuff.
Time for the celebration
Whether you throw them big parties and lavish them in gifts or just make them a holiday treat and keep it low-key, enjoying this time of year with your furry loved ones is just as important as spending that time with friends or family.
You’re far from alone in doing it, and it really is a great way to reaffirm your love and appreciation. Your dog or cat may not understand exactly what’s going on or why, but they are going to enjoy whatever it is you give them, as well as the chance to hang out with their fellow furry friends and have some fun.
Happy Holidays from Paw.com! Let us know how you celebrate them with your fur babies in the comments.
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