Holiday Stress: Helping Your Pet Through The Holidaze

Spaniel wearing Santa hat with holiday stress

 

The end-of-year holidays can be stressful on you and your pet!  Strange people, changes to the routine, different smells… the list goes on.  Here are some super holiday stress lowering tips to help both of you.

  1. Try to keep to the same schedule.  If you regularly walk your pet at 8 a.m. every day, try keeping to this schedule.  If you must change it, try to give your pet some ‘advance notice’ by walking it a little later or earlier for a few days, gradually reaching the new time.  Mealtimes, likewise, should be kept on track.
  2. Give them space. Whether it’s their crate, a high perch, or a quiet bedroom, ensure that your sensitive pet has the space it needs to feel safe when new people or activities enter the home.  This will give your pet confidence and may even contribute to more social behavior, as having a place to go means your pet can control how much interaction it has with your guests.
  3. Guard their space.  Make sure that your guests know not to push themselves on to your pet.  Tell everyone how your pet likes to be approached.  Guide children in how to properly greet and handle your pet.  Don’t leave your sensitive pet alone with strangers, even if they like pets.  
  4. Limit travel in the house.  If you normally keep food and water in one place and the litterbox in another, consider moving them to the same area.  Your pet might appreciate not having to travel through the holiday chaos.  This also can help prevent your pet from escaping the house via a door or gate left open.
  5. Quiet introductions are best.  If you have a houseful of noisy people, organize a ‘quiet time’ for them to say hello to your pet.  An evening gathering where everyone is watching a movie or quietly talking is a good time to bring your pet out for introductions and re-acquaintances.  If you take your pet out for walks, this may also be a good time to bring along people you want to accustom your pet to.
  6. Keep the treats few and far between.  Enforce this with your social gatherings.  Many pets don’t benefit from rich or too-sweet foods.  Plant-loving pets might not be loved by many popular holiday plants, so place these out of reach.   You may want to keep a jar of small, low-calorie pet treats so people can ‘treat’ your pet without too many repercussions.
  7. Use scent to calm your pet.  Your pet’s safe area should be full of familiar smells.  Avoid putting strange things in the area where your pet is spending its time, like strange luggage, clothing, presents, etc.  Blankets and other items with familiar smells and associations should be plentiful.  Pheromone sprays and dispensers also might help your pet settle down despite unusual sounds and scents.
  8. Get moving.  Exercise and stimulation are good for both you and your pets at this time of the year.  A walk and/or playtime may also be a good time to introduce sensitive or reactive pets to strangers.  Pets, like people, tend to deal with stress better with plenty of fresh air and exercise.  Even if your pet is an indoor pet, opening a window for a little while and letting them run about can give them a bit of holiday cheer!
  9. Get grooming.  Proper grooming that doesn’t stress your pet out is very beneficial.  Most pets learn to love brushing and combing.  If your pet gets stressed by grooming, don’t try anything stressful during holiday preparations.  Seek out less stressful grooming strategies during the height of the holiday season if you can’t schedule them before or after.
  10. Watch for stress signals.  Even a pet who normally loves or tolerates holiday hustle-bustle may get overwhelmed by activity or stimulation.  Watch for signs that your pet is getting over-stimulated.
  • Avoidance of people
  • Ignoring commands
  • Lip-licking
  • Whites of the eyes showing
  • Shaking
  • Cowering
  • Aggression – growling, hissing, snarling
  • Breaking housetraining
  • Vocalization – barking or meowing incessantly
  • Chewing things normally left alone

This is not a comprehensive list; if you notice your pet doing something unusual, watch it carefully to see if it needs a time to relax.  Pets aren’t always good at knowing when to stop or how to deal with stress.  At times where it seems that the excitement is getting a bit much, it’s better to settle your pet down than waiting for it to settle down on its own.

Happy holidays from Scaredy Cut!

Additional resources:
http://www.catbehaviorassociates.com/stress-in-cats/
https://www.petmd.com/dog/seasonal/evr_multi_dealing_with_holiday_stress
http://rabbit.org/your-bunny-and-the-holidays/

 

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