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The winter holidays provide the perfect time to not only dine on delicious dinner foods and indulge yourself in sweet treats, but it’s also an occasion to be with family. The most common go-to family celebrations are  Christmas dinner and the exchanging of gifts, just being together for the holidays can be joyful — or a borderline stress-fest for those with a “difficult” family! While on the conversation of family, how do you like to include your animal family members in the holidays?

Besides the wonderful gesture of wrapping up a present for your pet, another great way to make them a part of the holidays is to engage them in fun activities. Like humans, animals also need physical and mental stimulation on a daily basis as to not go stir crazy. While it is very necessary to play with and exercise your pets year round, during the busy Christmas season can be an even more important time because animals can pick up on your holiday stress. With that in mind, let us take a look at some fun things to do with your pets during the holidays:

  • Animals enjoy pretty and bright decorations like we do. Take a walk to look at the neighborhood Christmas lights with your dog, pig, or horse! Many fall or winter days will be too cold for long walks, especially if you are going out in the evening to see the colorful lights, so step outside to feel out the weather before your walk. Smaller doggie? Dress him in a warm dog sweater or coat and be aware of his little exposed feet.
  • Since the temperature during the holidays are cooler in most parts of the country, you might want to consider having a shorter play session in the backyard. If you have snow, take a fun run through it with your pet or toss around a toy for fetching to burn off their excess energy. Promptly dry them off to prevent illness.
  • Find local community activities for pets. Many local animal shelters host special holiday activities specifically for animals complete with games, obstacles courses, play rooms for smaller animals like cats and rabbits, Christmas animal treats, and shelter fundraising fun walks. Go online to your city or county’s event pages, check the paper, and even scan social media for local holiday pet events.
  • DIY fun treat toys to keep pets busy while you plan the holidays:

Dogs — put some dry food or small treat pieces with a tiny pinch of fresh cinnamon into clean cardboard containers like toilet paper or paper towel rolls and plug each end tightly with hard fruit wedges. When your dog plays with the roll, he will smell the cinnamon, hear the dry food rattling around inside and eat his way through the fruit to get inside.

Cats — cats are independent animals which can make it a little more difficult to get some kitties to play with a toy for an extended period of time. For a simple DIY holiday cat scratcher toy, take an old Christmas stocking made of a heavy duty scratchable material, cut it to open up flat, then wrap it around a piece of wood securing it tightly with twine or using a staple gun. Get a rounder piece of wood to create a rolling toy that your kitty will have to chase after.

  • Invite pet-loving family and friends over for a Christmas pet party! Have human guests bring homemade holiday themed dog or cat treats and have a pet treat “cookie” exchange. For the most part, a fun activity for both dogs and cats is laser pointer chasing, and a dog party can go out on a group walk to a nearby dog park.
  • Hosting a holiday party or going out to a Christmas social? Make sure to have a fun and rigorous play session with your dogs before guests arrive or before you leave for the evening. This will allow your dog to get out his energy so he won’t be bored while you socialize. Go on a brisk walk or run for at least 45 minutes and have some safe toys and distractions placed in the area where you will be keeping them while you host your party.
  • Fun and personal — have Christmas card pictures taken of you and your pet!

Image: Goji – Chief Happiness Officer @ One Green Planet.