Home » Well-Being » Recipes, Well-Being » Thanksgiving Safety & Treats

Thanksgiving Safety & Treats

I was thrilled to receive an invitation to a friend’s for Thanksgiving this year. A couple of days ago, I was driving home under swirling leaves and thinking about what I’d make and how the day would go, when I passed a couple walking an adorable dog. I realized then that I really wanted to explore some different options for pets as well, to help make this Thanksgiving just as fun for their pets as I hope it will be for the rest of us.

There are two main things to consider with regard to pets and holidays: safety and fun. Thanksgiving is certainly no different. A house buzzing with company, not to mention delicious smells, is sure to create a sense of adventure. However, be sure to keep pets safe by making the kitchen an “off-limits” zone for the day. Busy kitchens can pose several hazards to pets. Hot ovens are likely to be opened and closed all day, hot dishes will be carried in and out, and underfoot is no place for a pet on a busy holiday. There are several specific food-related hazards to be aware of, as well.

  • Sage is especially hazardous to cats, so be sure to bottle your seasonings as soon as you use them to avoid any injuries or damage.
  • Turkey and chicken should be well-cooked, skinless, and boneless, before your pets get a sample.
  • Bread dough can pose serious hazards to pets’ intestines, as the warmth of their bodies can actually cause the dough to rise and expand, creating a host of severe digestive problems.
  • Batter, whether you’re making a cake, cookies, cupcakes, or muffins, contains raw eggs, which poses a salmonella risk
  • Fatty foods, such as gravies, poultry skin, or fatty meats, can cause pancreatitis and should be avoided even in small portions.
  • Bones are especially tempting for dogs, but turkey and chicken bones are likely to splinter or break after hours in a hot oven and pose digestive safety hazards. Always opt for bones specifically made for pets to avoid these health hazards.
  • Food packaging, like bags, wrappings, and cans, will likely smell and taste delicious, but contain sharp edges and choking hazards, so be sure to dispose of packaging immediately.

Holidays certainly aren’t all about danger and caution, though! There are plenty of treats to keep your pet happy as well. If you have small pets like rodents, raw fruits and veggies (such as broccoli or carrots) are great treat options, but be sure to keep portions very small. Birds can get in on the Thanksgiving action with staples like cranberries and sweet potatoes, but again, portions should be kept very small, and be sure feed them sweet potatoes that haven’t been cooked with butter and brown sugar (if candied sweet potatoes are on your menu, just reserve a cooked sweet potato coin for your birds before you add the butter and sugar or marshmallows).

Turkey is suitable for both dogs and cats, provided the skin and bones are removed completely. The quickest option on a busy day full of holiday preparation  is to simply chop up a little bit of cooked turkey and mix it with your dog’s regular food for a special treat. For cats, add some turkey to your blender or food processor along with some canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix). This can be mixed into their regular food or even eaten by itself, depending on your cat’s taste.

If you have some extra time or ambition on or around Thanksgiving and want to make a special treat specifically for your pet, both dogs and cats will be especially grateful.

For cats, try Turkey Delight, adapted from Tony Lawson’s Cat-Lovers’ Cook Book.


  • 1 ½ C water
  • 2t corn oil
  • ½ C brown rice (raw)
  • ½ lb raw turkey giblets, finely chopped
  • ¼ C carrot, finely chopped
  • ½ C chopped spinach


Combine the oil and water and bring to a boil. Once boiling, add rice, lower the heat, cover, and cook for 10 minutes. Then, add in the giblets, carrots, and spinach and stir well. Cover and continue to cook on low heat for 10-15 minutes. Cool completely before serving in meal-size portions. Store the unused portions in an airtight container in the fridge.

For dogs, what about a savory sweet potato biscuit? These are adapted from “The Ultimate Dog Treat Cookbook,” by Liz Palika.

With a wooden spoon, mix together:

  • 2C diced sweet potato, cooked until fork-tender
  • 1 ¼ C whole wheat flour
  • 1C warm water
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 2.5oz jar of turkey baby food

Once combined, drop rounded teaspoonfuls onto a greased or parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for 20-25 minutes at 350° or until rich, golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool completely before offering to your dog. Store these in the fridge in an airtight container.

Hopefully, these tips will help you to create a healthy, enjoyable Thanksgiving for your family, friends, and pets alike. What Thanksgiving treats are your pets most fond of, year to year? Share your recipes in the comments!



North Shore Animal League; ASPCA; Banfield Pet Hospital; WebVet; Cats@About; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette


2 Responses to Thanksgiving Safety & Treats

  1. How fun

  2. I love these ways for everyone to enjoy Turkey day!