10 Christmas Traditions to Enjoy with Your Pets

Can you believe that there are only 5 days till Christmas! What are you and your pet doing to celebrate the last few days of the Christmas season? Here are 10 Christmas traditions to start (or continue) with your pets. Many can be enjoyed before Christmas day. Start now to help fill the time spent waiting for Christmas Day to arrive.

1. Decorate the Christmas Tree

If you haven’t yet, start off the week leading up to Christmas by decorating the Christmas tree with your pets. I find that cats especially are fascinated with trees. I know there is always a big debate on real versus artificial trees, but in my house we normally have artificial Christmas trees. Frisko loves the tree box, licking the plastic “needles” and laying underneath the tree.

While many cats like to crawl in the trees, Frisko has learned that it is safer to stay on the ground. He climbed in a tree his first Christmas and tipped the whole thing over (cracking ornaments and scaring himself in the process). But if your cat is a tree climber, check out this list of suggestions by Dr. Marty Becker to keep your cat out of the Christmas tree. Another good way to keep your cat out of the tree is by giving him or her something else to do. For suggestions, check out my list of cat boredom busters.

2. Visit Santa Paws

Take your pet to visit Santa! It is a great opportunity to get some fun pictures of your pet. In many cases, you can even find a Santa Paws that is working to help support a local charity. For example, in La Crosse, New Leash on Life Rescue hosted a Santa Paws this December.  And the pictures below are from a fundraising Santa Paws that Glia visited during my time in veterinary school. She wasn’t even a year old yet and did not sit still well.

3. Wrap Presents

For those of you who like a challenge, wrap Christmas presents with your pets. Keeping the cat from sitting on the wrapping paper could be a full-time job. And picking pet hair out of the gift wrapping tape could drive a type-A personality batty. I personally have chosen to embrace the pet hair. How else would the receivers of the gift truly know it was hand-wrapped by yours truly?

4. Go Walking in a Winter Wonderland

Head outdoors and enjoy the winter wonderland outside your back door. You may not have as much snow as we do in Wisconsin, but winter hikes are a wonderful way to enjoy the holiday season.  Glia and I are always big proponents of getting outside. There is something about spending time in the peace and solitude of nature that is great for the spirit.

If you are new to winter hiking, check out our cold weather safety guide.

5. Design and Send out Your Christmas Cards

Christmas cards are a fun holiday tradition. It isn’t too often that I still get physical cards in the mail, but at Christmas time that all changes. There is something so wonderful about opening your mailbox and finding hand-addressed cards sent to you by friends and family. I started sending out my own Christmas cards in 2014. Personally, I find it a lot of fun to include my pets in this holiday tradition.

6. Give Back to the Community – Volunteer

A big part of Christmas is the spirit of giving. If you have a dog or cat with a relaxed, friendly personality, take them with you to volunteer somewhere. Many nursing homes will allow well behaved animals to visit. And, in my experience, many of the residents of nursing homes are animal lovers who really appreciate the company that you and your pet can provide. As with many volunteer opportunities, you often get as much as you give during these visits.

Or if you want to volunteer without your pet, give back to some of the homeless animals still waiting for a home to celebrate Christmas in. Walk a shelter dog or cuddle with a shelter cat. The options are endless.

7. Go See Christmas Lights

In La Crosse, we have a lovely holiday lights display called the Rotary Lights. It is located along the Mississippi River in a downtown park. It is a lovely place to take a stroll with the dog in December. And the best part is that the only charge is a donation for the local food pantries.

If your local town/city does not have a holiday lights display (or you just prefer a less populate walking route), simply walk around the neighborhood at night. I am sure there will be a few houses in your neighborhood with spectacular holiday light displays.

8. Bake Pet Friendly Christmas Cookies

Get in the Christmas spirit by baking with/for your furry companion. You can find our review of three Christmas cookie recipes for dogs in our blog post, Baking with Dogs: Christmas Cookie Edition. Or check out The Everyday Dog Mom’s recipe for snowflake cookies for dogs and follow the links at the bottom of her post for more holiday baking ideas for your pets.

9. Set Your Pets Up in Front of the Tree/Holiday Decorations and Take Fun Holiday Photos

In preparation for next year’s Christmas cards, have a holiday photo shoot with your pets. The Christmas lights, bright red and green colors, and plethora of options for holiday attire make for a great opportunity to take some wonderful photos.

10. Open Presents

And finally, on Christmas, you can open presents together. As puppies, both Kitsa and Glia loved shredding the wrapping paper. And digging into a stocking in search of treats is always a great time.

What are your favorite holiday traditions with your pets?

Whether you have cats or dogs or both, what are your favorite Christmas traditions to enjoy with your pets? Do you volunteer somewhere together? Have a favorite pet treat to bake? Let us know in the comments section below!


Kate is the writer of Pawsitively Intrepid. She has spent the last 9 years working full-time as a veterinarian, treating dogs and cats. But as of June 2023, she is taking a year to travel with her dog, volunteer, and work on some passion projects.

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