How to Have a Pet-Friendly Holiday Feast

Turkey time is almost upon us, and we all know that our furry companions will be trying their hardest to convince us that “just a taste” of the dinnertime feast won’t hurt them. As we all know, that ideology is far from the truth. Luckily, there are pet-friendly foods you can include in your holiday feasts so everyone can have a safe and happy meal (or three, or four, or five) together.

Go green
Fresh vegetables are great for any pet’s diet, so feel free to fill up their dish with some delicious green beans. “[Winter greens] provide great vitamins and antioxidants,” echoes Lucy Postin, CEO and founder of The Honest Kitchen. Postin says pet owners should opt for plain or lightly steamed green beans as varieties covered in butter, onions, cream, or seasoning can be harmful. (And avoid green bean casserole since toxic ingredients might be lurking inside.) Fresh or steamed broccoli, celery, and cucumbers are also fine to share with your cat or dog.

Make sure it's well-cooked meat
You may be surprised to learn that turkey can be safe for your cat or dog. The ASPCA recommends feeding it to them in small portions and to make sure it’s boneless and well-cooked. ASPCA experts write: “A few small boneless pieces of cooked turkey, a taste of mashed potato or even a lick of pumpkin pie shouldn’t pose a problem. However, don't allow your pets to overindulge, as they could wind up with a case of stomach upset, diarrhea or even worse—an inflammatory condition of the pancreas known as pancreatitis.”

For the really cautious: Stick to packaged treats
To ensure there are no mix ups, consider sticking with pet treats you purchase from the store. You already know these are safe for your pets to digest, so why not! To make it extra special you can even spend a little more on freeze-dried varieties, refrigerated meats, pet-approved cookies, and the like. If you’re unsure about the quality of a new treat, ask your veterinarian or a pet store employee for their take.

Desserts aren’t totally out of the question (sort of)
For cats and dogs who love to help make dessert, feel free to share with them small slices of apples, blueberries, or even mangoes before they make their way into the pie crust. Just make sure you wash the fruit properly and remove any seeds, pits, or skins from the larger fruits. 

Be wary of natural ingredients
“While it may seem simple enough to just use ‘natural’ ingredients, that’s not always the case,” writes Dr. Mary Beth Leininger, AVP, Veterinary Relations, Hartville Pet Insurance Group. Dr. Leininger cautions pet parents to keep an eye out for harmful natural ingredients, likes grapes, macadamia nuts, and chocolate, which are often used in holiday meals.

Not sure which foods you should keep out of paw’s reach? Read Brilliant’s “8 Valentine’s Day Safety Tips For Your Pet” for more food safety advice.

Know your vet’s numbers
As always, have a plan ready in case your pet eats something unsavory. Know the holiday hours of operation for your local veterinarian, and save the following numbers in your cell phone.

ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center
1-888-426-4435, open 24/7
$65 per call; includes a follow-up consultation

Pet Poison Helpline
1-800-213-6680, open 24/7
$39 per call; includes unlimited follow-up consultations