Give Thanks for Family — and Family Pets

Thanksgiving Cat
Richard Schmidt

Thanksgiving is big on tradition, and at my house, those traditions include watching the Macy's Day Parade and maybe feeling  tryptophan drowsy watching a little turkey day football with the Detroit Lions. But really, it’s more about one's own family traditions. For me there’s nothing like hearing a family member take a sincere stab at a prayer, starting a rotation of heaping bowls of food including a family secret recipe or two, and just sharing our stories between bites.

Thanksgiving is a time when we’re often all together, as in close enough to hug each other. If you’ve ever met me – and many of you have, or will, you know there’s nothing I like better than hugging.

Though we mostly think of Thanksgiving as a time for our human family, I also think about how it includes our four-legged-family members. We can smell turkey and dressing cooking, but can you imagine being a dog wafting in on the wave of smells like Daffy Duck or Bugs Bunny or some other character in a Chuck Jones cartoon? And that meal, when it’s served — what temptations!

In these hectic times, Thanksgiving is the only day many of us sit down at a table together to eat. That makes it a time for small dogs to sneak from family member to family member under the table for a tidbit of turkey and for bigger dogs to push up your arms until you dish some of the bounty. Even the most well-mannered of cats may be tempted to jump up on the table, given half a chance. And who can blame any of them?

We have our own family traditions at our Almost Heaven Ranch in North Idaho. Thanksgiving is the day when we put holiday collars on our pets for the first time, as we yell out “Happy Howlidays!” If the pets are less enthusiastic than we are, I find a piece of turkey in hand helps amp up their interest in this activity.

As you can tell, we’re a family who likes to have a lot of laughter in our thankfulness, and we always include our animals in the fun. What about your four-legged family? Be thankful and count them in your blessings. As a veterinarian, though, I have to leave you with a little advice.

Thanksgiving is not time to give pets leftover fatty scraps from the feast. If you do, you may, at the very least, end up on your hands and knees cleaning up a mess (their digestive systems aren't used to extremely high-fat meals). Or worse, you can find yourself in a veterinary emergency room with a pet suffering from painful pancreatitis. That doesn’t mean you can’t share — and on this day I encourage you to do so. Just make sure it’s a tidbit here and there of the leanest meat, and not too much of it, since most pets like most people are more portly than they should be.

That last part is something to worry about again tomorrow. Today is for friends and family, so enjoy!

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