Entertaining With Pets: How to Keep Them Safe (and Sane) at Your Next Soiree

Mind your party petiquette — don’t leave your furry friends hanging.

Whether you throw a housewarming party or a backyard barbecue, it’s important to understand that your pets may not share your enthusiasm for entertaining.

Despite the term “party animals,” many dogs and cats don’t like raucous gatherings with strangers invading their space. Some pets get really spooked by unusual activity in the home — even moving furniture around can upset them.

Try these tips for keeping your pets calm, cool and collected come party time.

Prevent great escapes

Party guests often leave front doors and outside gates open and unsupervised, which means that pets can slip out and run away. And by the time you notice their absence, several hours may have passed. This can happen during party setup too — especially if you have caterers or delivery people coming in and out.

Both cats and dogs, even if they are microchipped, should wear a collar with an up-to-date ID tag on it. And before the party, check that your pet is wearing its collar. Often the collar comes off for a bath or a grooming session, so double-check to be safe.

Give pets a private “party”

Many pets will be much happier and safer if you sequester them in a designated room or portion of your house, away from your guests. It’s a good idea to do this during setup too.

Give them their own “party” with lots of distraction toys and treat puzzles in the area where you’ve decided to confine them. Include food and water — and a litter box if you have a cat. Take your dog for a long walk beforehand so it can have a potty break.

Once they’re settled in their playroom, put a note on the door telling guests not to open it because there are pets inside.

Tricks to reduce stress

If your pets are particularly anxious around noise and people, it may be a good idea to use a pheromone plug-in to help them relax.

Pheromones are a substance that mother dogs and cats produce to calm their young. They help alleviate stress-induced behaviors, such as inappropriate marking, chewing and barking. Plug-ins need time to allow the pheromones to circulate in the room, so do this a couple of days in advance. They usually last a month.

Another alternative is to consider a ThunderShirt for your dog or cat. They come in all sizes, not to mention some fun patterns and colors too. They work by the swaddling principle that mothers use to calm babies and small children, and many animal behaviorists recommend them.

“Please DON’T feed me!”

If you’re entertaining on a small scale and don’t need to keep pets contained, make sure they don’t eat any food you may have put out in advance.

It’s OK to politely ask your friends not to feed your pets at the table or outside — even if your four-legged pal begs. Some foods, such as onions and grapes, are toxic to cats and dogs. And it’s not cute to give your pet a glass of beer. It can make them really sick.

When you’re barbecuing, watch those bones and corncobs. They’re choking hazards for pets.

Hazards of post-party cleanup

Don’t let your guard down once your guests leave and you let your pets back out — they might clean up too! Make sure they don’t get into the kitchen when your back is turned and help themselves to leftovers or raid the trash. Or, even worse, get into that box of chocolates a guest brought as a gift.

Speaking of gifts, if you’re planning to entertain, it’s a really good idea to give your pet a new toy. The novelty of something new will keep your dog or cat engaged while you’re with your friends.

Taking proper precautions helps ensure that everyone enjoys the party, including your pets.