As you begin to prepare for the upcoming holiday season for your family, don't forget your pets. I'm not just talking about buying holiday gifts for your pet — but don't forget that either. I'm talking this time about taking the necessary precautions to avoid holiday disasters where your pets are concerned.

The first thing you need to think about is will you need to board your pet or hire a holiday pet-sitter. If you have not made those arrangements, stop reading this and go make those arrangements immediately. Your favorite boarding kennel or pet-sitter may already be booked to maximum capacity already.

OK, now that you have taken care of that, start considering other arrangements you may need to make for your pet. If you will be hosting holiday gatherings, you may want to take into consideration how all those people in your home will affect them. Some well-socialized dogs still have difficulty when there are unusually large amounts of people in your home.

You may wish to board your dog during the party, or you may consider hiring a neighborhood youth (already familiar with your pet) to come “dog-sit” in a separate area of your home during the party. That area would need to have access to the yard in case your dog needs “use of the facilities” during the party.

Arm the youth with toys and treats and games to play with the family dog. Also have a secure collar or harness and a sturdy leash available. Have a water bowl with extra water in that area of the home also. If possible, have the youth come over for a trial pet-sitting for an hour or so several days prior to your scheduled gathering. This way you can iron out any special needs that you may not have anticipated.

Also, cats often do not like strangers in their home. And you cat owners know that, if you own a cat, it's not your home anymore — it is the cat's home that you now live in. So you need to take precautions — especially for your cat's wellbeing and safety.

Cats will often try to escape when too many people start entering their environment, and with lots of strangers to your home, they may think that it is OK to let your cat outside. I recommend placing your cat into a room, such as a bedroom, den, office, etc., that will not be used during your party.

Set up a litter box, water and food bowl in the room several days prior to the gathering. Show these to your cat so your cat gets used to them being there. Also, buy a few new toys and maybe some special treats your cat really loves.

A few hours before the party, place your cat in the room. Leave a lamp lit in the room. Make sure the food and water are freshly filled. Scatter the new toys and treats around the room. Then close the door (and, if possible, lock the door but make sure you have a key).

Place a sign on the outside of the door “Keep out — Do not open,” or something like that. You may even want to put a note stating that you do not want to have the door opened due to your cat being locked inside and you do not want it accidentally escaping.

After the party is over and all of your guests have left, give your cat some kind of super-special treat or a can of its favorite food as a reward for staying locked in the room.

Next comes the pet-proofing your home for the holidays.

First, cats: Look out for anything shiny, crinkly sounding, things dangling or hanging, and more. Think of what might interest your cat and then use caution. Cats will probably try to climb your Christmas tree, so be careful of that. Also, cats will likely try to bat at your ornaments hanging from the tree, so use caution that you do not put any valuable ornaments down on the lower branches where your cat may damage them.

Also, cats like to play with curly ribbons and bows; however, these are not safe for your cats if they happen to ingest them. They can cause blockages, requiring surgery or worse. Lit candles, with their flickering flames, also seem to interest kitties, so do not leave burning candles unattended.

Cats also like to be up high, so watch where you place your most cherished decorations. Do not place them near the edges, where a cat might easily push them crashing to the floor. You may even considering using some double-faced tape or other such items to secure your decorations.

Now, let's take a look at a few items of caution in regards to your dog during the holidays: Candy is always a big one, especially chocolate. Always keep candy securely out of your dog's reach. Candy, chocolate, caffeine and alcohol can — best case — make your dog sick; and, worst case, it can kill them.

All other holiday food is also very tempting for your favorite pooches, so be careful where you place your food. Many dogs also like to “open gifts early.” Sometimes it is the smell of the contents; sometimes it's the curly ribbons; sometimes it's just the attention we humans pay to the packages; but whatever the reason, dogs can also ingest the paper or ribbons or contents, causing them ill effects.

Dogs can also escape out the door during gatherings, parties or just when the delivery person drops off food or packages. Dogs also can knock over trees, decorations and more.

Besides watching out that your pets don't eat the candy, drink the alcohol, steal the turkey, destroy your tree and other holiday decorations, there are also some holiday plants that can be poisonous to your pets. The beautiful poinsettias, glorious holly berries and romantic mistletoe are all dangerous for our pets.

There are many other dangers for your pets, especially during the holidays, but with attentiveness and proper supervision, pets and humans alike can have a wonderful and joyous holiday season.

Cheryl Loveland is a dog groomer, pet-sitter, dog trainer and fosterer for many unwanted animals. She does rescue work for all types of animals and has owned or fostered most types of domestic animals and many wild ones. She currently resides with her bloodhound, which she has shown in conformation and is currently training for search-and-rescue work. Also residing with her are a bichon frisée, two cats and two birds. She welcomes comments, questions and suggestions for future articles at Remember, she is not an expert: she offers her opinions and suggestions from her experience and research.