A dog staring through shelter wire.

Many families extend a Thanksgiving invitation to friends who don’t have family nearby. Since dogs and cats are part of the family, shouldn’t we offer the same courtesy to animals in the same predicament? In other words, why not share some Thanksgiving love with shelter and rescue dogs and cats?

Here are a few ways you can give thanks for pets by helping those without families this holiday season:

Foster a homeless pet for the holidays. Shelter and rescue facilities can be full of sights, sounds and smells that are unfamiliar and even scary for dogs and cats. Many of these organizations are looking for temporary homes for animals for a week or more. A quiet, loving home environment like yours may just be what these dogs and cats need to blossom.

Put together a care package. Rescues and shelters are always in need of supplies, from dry and canned dog or cat food to toys and treats, kitty litter and large, gently used towels. Why not bring homeless pets a gift basket from your family? You can always call your favorite local rescue and ask what items are especially needed at this time of year.

Feed a homeless person’s pet. For someone living on the streets, it can be hard enough to find a nutritious meal for yourself, let alone for your dog. The nonprofit organization Pets of the Homeless lists drop-off centers for pet food or donations for emergency veterinary care. This organization is linked with food banks, homeless shelters, food pantries and soup kitchens that can deliver the pet food to those who really need it.

Volunteer your time at the shelter. Plenty of animals could use some one-on-one time with a human being. And what human couldn’t use another dog or cat fix? Many shelter and rescue organizations are looking for a people who can help walk dogs, exercise small critters, socialize cats and scrub kennels. It won’t cost you a thing, but it’ll sure make some animals feel good.

Participate in Giving Tuesday. On the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, people all over the world will make donations to their favorite nonprofit organizations. It’s your chance to support a cause that’s close to your heart, like your local shelter or rescue. You can even specify where you’d like the money to go, such as a fund for those animals who are sick and need medical or surgical care.

The best gift of all: adoption. Do you have room in your heart and home for a new pet? There are plenty of dogs and cats who would love nothing better than a forever home. It’s a tremendous kindness to a lonely dog or cat. But it’s also a gift to yourself — and one that truly keeps on giving.

The information in this blog has been developed with our veterinarian and is designed to help educate pet parents. If you have questions or concerns about your pet's health or nutrition, please talk with your veterinarian.