It’s the most wonderful time of the year—for humans, that is! The holidays are filled with gifts, big dinners and visits from loved ones. From a pet’s perspective, though, all of that translates to loud noises and forced interactions. With that in mind, it comes as no surprise that pet parents see increased anxiety from their furry friends during the holiday season.
Common triggers during the holidays
The holidays can introduce some new triggers to your pet’s environment. Even the calmest pets can become riddled with anxiety when pet parents start to celebrate the holidays. Here are a few explanations for why your cat or dog seems more skittish this season than usual.
- Changes to their routine: Prepping for the holiday season can throw a wrench in your pet’s routine. They feel your absence when you go shopping for presents, spend time preparing a large dinner or visit relatives. When a pet’s routine is thrown off, they have no way of predicting what will happen next. This uncertainty creates stress because they start to question when their next meal will be or when they’ll see you again.
- Strangers in the home: It’s that time of year when loved ones are seeing each other for the first time in what feels like forever. Large social gatherings can bombard pets with unfamiliar scents, sounds and people they have never met before. To make matters worse, those strangers might try to invade the pet’s personal space with unwanted touching. The love and adoration from guests can seem threatening to pets.
- Loud noises: During the holiday season, your pet’s environment may get a lot noisier. Large crowds in the home create incessant chatter and bursts of laughter. New Year’s Eve is especially stressful with fireworks and everyone cheering at midnight. Your home might even be visited by the occasional group of carolers! No matter the source, new and scary noises are everywhere this time of year.
How to keep your pet happy and safe
Pet stress during the holiday season doesn’t mean pet parents have to cancel all their plans. It’s very much possible for you to bask in the joys of winter while helping your pet stay calm. Follow these tips to help your anxious pet cope with all the holiday cheer.
- Exercise your pet before parties: Cats and dogs feel a lot less nervous when they’re tired! Amidst the flurry of last-minute preparations, make time to burn off your dog’s energy in the backyard or chase your cat with a red laser. This will help them stay calm, cool and collected when guests walk through the door.
- Stick to the usual routine: Guests can easily pull your attention away from a pet’s basic needs. Set reminders for yourself to feed the cat at their usual time or let out the dog for a potty break. If possible, ask another household member to hold down the fort while you sneak out for a quick walk around the block. If you’ve got errands to run on the weekends, schedule them when you’d normally be gone at work.
- Reserve a quiet room for your pet: Some pets really know how to work a crowd, while others prefer to hide under the bed. If yours if the latter, create a peaceful space where your cat or dog can hunker down for the evening. Choose a room that’s far away from the party and make sure the room has a door so it can shut out the noise. Supply your pet with food, water, bedding, puzzle toys and a litter box. Put a note on the door that warns guests not to enter or knock.
- Provide some calming scents: Guests fill the home with unfamiliar smells. While you set up a room for your pet, be sure to include scents that ease their anxiety. Pull some dirty clothes out of your hamper and lay them in your pet’s bedding. You could also try pheromone plug-ins, which are made for both cats and dogs. They release a chemical that imitates the soothing scent of a pet’s nursing mother.
The key to overcoming holiday stress is to make sure your pet’s routine stays as consistent as possible and their needs are accounted for. Despite your best efforts, your fur baby may still seem a tad anxious. Set aside time during the festivities to check in with your pet and let them know they’re still loved. Your smiling face is sure to put them in good spirits!