Five Mistakes Pet Owners Will Make This Holiday Season--And How to Avoid Them

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Pet Sitters International provides five tips to help pet owners avoid common holiday mistakes made each year.

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Hiring a professional pet sitter to care for your animal companion is one of the best gifts you can give your pet this holiday season

Pet Sitters International, the world's largest educational association for professional pet sitters, representing 7,900 pet-sitting businesses, offers five tips that will help well-intended pet owners avoid some of the most common mistakes pet parents make during the holidays. Incorporating these simple pet-friendly strategies into your plans will help ensure a joyous holiday for pets and people alike:

  • Waiting until the last minute to book a pet sitter

Whether it is holiday travel, a day at grandma's or simply an extended shopping trip---something will inevitably keep you away from your home and pets during the holidays. For pet owners with holiday plans, time is running out to book a professional pet sitter. Professional pet sitters often begin booking for the holidays two to three months in advance. Waiting until the last minute to try to find a pet sitter may result in missed events with family and friends or having to rely on someone that may not be the best provider for your pet.

PSI offers its free Pet Sitter Locator to pet owners wanting to find the best care for their pets during the holiday season. The ZIP code-driven search tool offers enhanced features, enabling pet owners to conduct a criteria-based search in less than one minute. Discriminating pet owners can search PSI's database of nearly 8,000 independent professional pet-sitting businesses for custom-tailored services ranging from daily dog walks to caring for pets with special needs. Users can refine their searches even further by specifying credentials such as bonding, liability insurance and pet first-aid training. PSI also offers a one of a kind Pet Sitter Interview Checklist to help pet owners evaluate their pet's caregiver.

  • Assuming everyone loves your pet as much as you do

Resist the temptation to bring Fido or Fluffy with you to family gatherings and other social functions. Even if your pet is a "perfect angel," for persons with allergies, animal-related phobias or small children, your pet's presence may be as appreciated as a re-gifted fruitcake.

For pets, the combination of strange surroundings, rambunctious children and an over-stimulated palate is a recipe for disaster. During the holidays, pets can require more attention than usual. At holiday functions, children are often the ones wanting to provide it. Unsolicited attention or an innocent attempt to give a treat to a pet can result in bites, scratches or even a trip to the emergency room.

According to PSI President and Pet Sitting For Profit author Patti Moran, pets are happier and experience less stress when they remain at home. "Hiring a professional pet sitter to care for your animal companion is one of the best gifts you can give your pet this holiday season," states Moran. "A professional pet sitter alleviates the dilemma of inconveniencing family and friends and allows your pet to stay in its normal environment and routine."

For pet owners, the gift comes from knowing their fur children are receiving quality care from someone who understands the needs of their pets.

  • Decorating without considering your pets

Pet owners should always decorate with their pets in mind---securing, limiting or even removing items that pose the greatest risks. Candles, fragile or small ornaments, tinsel, and a seemingly endless list of common holiday items make this time of year one of the most dangerous for pets.


Forego traditional floral decorations such as poinsettia, Christmas rose, holly, hibiscus and the berries of mistletoe. These plants are toxic to pets. For a list of other toxic plants, pet owners are encouraged to review the list found at

Christmas Trees

Christmas trees present a hazard to pets because the water can be poisonous if ingested. Pet owners should always cover the base of the tree so pets cannot access the water. It is also important to secure the tree to a wall to prevent toppling. Place ornaments on the upper two-thirds of the tree or out of your pet's normal line of sight to reduce unwanted interaction with wires, hooks and ornaments.


Pets should never be left alone in a decorated room. Small ornaments and tinsel should be kept out of "paw's reach" to avoid choking or internal injury. Because pets have a penchant for chewing, items such as Christmas lights and other wire-based electrical decorations should be used sparingly. Candles should only be used when pets are secured or are closely being monitored. When away from your home, secure your pets away from these items. As an added precaution, unplug lights and motorized decorations.

  • Treating pets to people food

With the holidays comes the consumption of an inordinate amount of fatty, salty, sugary and calorically dense foods. Allowing pets to indulge in these same holiday excesses is not only bad for their health; it can lead to digestion problems and numerous other health issues.

As a rule of thumb, never feed people food to pets---especially treats. Common holiday foods like chocolate, raisins and macadamia nuts can cause serious physical and internal harm to a pet. Stray wrappers from candies can also be a problem since there is a potential for choking and/or intestinal blockage, if ingested.

Since removing the plethora of temptations is largely impractical, PSI suggests securing your pet in a "safe room" away from guests and potential hazards. After the festivities, be sure to properly discard all food scraps and trash before letting your pet back into the other areas of your home.

  • Forgetting to tell Santa about your pet

He's made his list. He's checked it twice. Nevertheless, forgetting to gift your pet is naughty...not nice. Asking Santa to drop off something special for your pet is not only thoughtful, but practical as well. Giving gifts to your pet reinforces the idea that they too are an important part of the family. What's more, giving your pet the right gift---a new chew toy for example---will help lessen your pet's interest in Billy's Baseball cards and Susie's new Barbie® I can be...™ Pet Sitter play set.

For pet-specific gift ideas, PSI recommends visiting the PSIStoreOnline.

About Pet Sitters International
Established in 1994, Pet Sitters International (PSI) is the world's largest educational association for professional pet sitters, representing more than 7,900 independent professional pet-sitting businesses in the United States, Canada and abroad. PSI prides itself on its ability to provide its members with access to affordable bonding and liability insurance and educational resources such as PSI's Accreditation Program, The WORLD of Professional Pet Sitting magazine, The Pet Owner's WORLD magazine and PSI's annual Quest convention.

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John Long
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