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Thanksgiving Safety Tips

Thanksgiving is just around the corner. If you share your home with a pet who tends to help himself when it comes to holiday food, it’s important to take some extra precautions to make sure everyone, including the feline and canine members of the family have a safe holiday. Some cats and dogs have no interest in what is being served on the dining table but others make it their mission to swipe a few tasty morsels. If your pet is focused on sharing in the Thanksgiving meal, it’s best to just let him sit the holiday out in another room.


Rich and Spicy Food

It’s not a good idea to allow your pet to indulge in foods that aren’t a part of his regular diet. Everyone has a memory of good ol’ Uncle Harry who always over-indulges when he visits for the holidays and ends up needing major doses of antacid tablets. Holiday foods are usually much richer than our normal diets and your pets are just as susceptible to stomach problems as you are.


Although turkey itself is safe, turkey bones can splinter and cause internal damage or choking. Don’t allow your pets to have access to them. Make sure that you don’t leave the turkey carcass out on the counter or in an open trash can where your pet can gain access to it. You don’t want to be spending Thanksgiving night at the animal emergency clinic.

Onions and Garlic

Most of the holiday foods are prepared with onions and/or garlic. Onions are toxic to pets and can even be fatal. Onions destroy red blood cells which results in Heinz body anemia. Both raw and cooked onions are toxic and even onion powder isn’t safe.

Garlic, although not as toxic as onions, still damages red blood cells and isn’t a safe food for your pet.


Gravy is high in fat and is usually flavored with onions or garlic. Keep it away from your pet.

Turkey Stuffing

Stuffing usually contains onions and garlic which are toxic. Stuffing is also typically heavily spiced which can cause stomach upset. The bread in the stuffing has a high salt content as well.

Pie and Other Desserts

The high fat and sugar content in desserts make them something your pet doesn’t need. Desserts made with chocolate can actually be extremely toxic to cats and dogs.


If your dog or cat has a tendency to try to stick his nose in any glass of liquid he finds on the coffee table, keep him out the room where guests are drinking or make sure all glasses are kept out of reach.

Create a Sanctuary

Whether your pet makes a non-stop attempt to get food or is just easily stressed by the large number of visitors in the home, the best solution may be to set him up in a sanctuary room where no visitors will enter. You can even put a sign on the door to make sure no one allows the pet to escape.

If you have a dog, a baby gate across the room’s entry may be the solution for a pup who wants to see what’s going on and be a part of the holiday social scene but needs to remain safe. For a cat, set up a separate room where he can have his own food, litter box, some toys and a cozy place to nap. With my cat, I let her indulge in a little catnip party in her sanctuary room. After a great play session she’s ready for a good cat nap.

I wish you and your pets a very happy and safe Thanksgiving.

Need More Information?

For more specifics on cat safety, cat training or cat behavior problems, refer to the books by Pam Johnson-Bennett.

Books by Pam Johnson-Bennett