The holidays can be stressful for many of us - humans and animals alike. Whether your pet has unwrapped many gifts with you over the years or you just recently adopted a new furry friend into your family, animals can be very sensitive to holiday stress. They may even experience anxiety simply by sensing and absorbing their human companion's stress.
However, it is easy to make the holidays merry and bright for everyone, even the most anxiety-prone pets. Read on to learn about what common holiday activities could trigger anxiety in your pet and how to prevent or manage them.
Gift-wrapping, cookie baking, caroling, decorating - it can be a lot. The higher activity level in your household may become overwhelming for your pet, especially if they are prone to anxiety or used to a more relaxed, quiet environment. To keep them from becoming overburdened, make sure they have a private, comfortable space to escape to when they need it. This space might be their bed, a piece of furniture away from the noise, their crate and favorite blanket, a separate room, or any space that is calm and secluded.
Also, give your pet plenty of exercise, especially on more chaotic days, to help burn off excess energy and help keep anxiety at bay.
Animals thrive on routine. But during the holidays, schedule changes are very common. Try to keep your pet's daily routine as close to normal as possible. They love predictability - knowing what time they get food, what time they go outside, when their people will be home, etc. - because it makes them feel safe and secure. By keeping your pet on a normal as possible schedule, they will be comforted with that security. That may mean breaking from a holiday party to go feed your dog, sneaking in some cat cuddles before Christmas morning gift opening, or running errands on your day off during your work hours so you are away from home at regular times.
If you are planning to invite guests into your home on the holidays, consider how your pet might feel about that. Does your pet get excited to meet new people - eagerly greeting them with a wagging tail and relaxed posture? Or do they get frightened - hiding, barking, and backing away from the person with a stiff posture? If it's the second, consider crating your pet or keeping them in a separate room where there can have mental stimulation and cozy comforts. Think puzzle toys, scratching posts, blankets, a bed, treats, water, a Kong, etc. Or, choose to be the guest at someone else's home and leave your pet in the quiet comfort of their own space. Unless you are absolutely certain that your pet is a social butterfly,
Just like meeting new people, our pets do not always want to meet new animals. If your pet prefers to be the center of attention and does not get along with other dogs or cats, do not try to force them to make furry friends. If guests are coming to your house, kindly ask them to leave their pets at home. If you are visiting other houses, leave your pet in their own space where they will be calm and secure. No one wants to break up a dog or cat fight in front of the Christmas tree.
New Year's fireworks are right around the corner. Thankfully, there are many ways to help manage this stressor. Just check out our previous blog post, 8 Tips for Minimizing Your Pet’s Firework Anxiety. The same rules apply for all loud noises, but most importantly, be sure that your pet has a quiet, cozy room to relax in with blankets, calming music, water, treats, puzzle toys, and possibly calming pheromone plug-ins such as Adaptil or Feliway.
All of the common holiday anxiety triggers for our pets can be managed with paying extra attention to your pet's needs. That means more playtime, more exercise, extra cozy and calm getaway spaces, and lots of extra love. It is important to prioritize your pet's needs and not place them in a situation that will potentially cause anxiety.
SIGNS OF PET ANXIETY
- Shivering or shaking
- Pacing and circling
- Drooling or panting
- Excessive yawning
- Non-stop and over-the-top grooming
- Excess claw sharpening
- Eliminating outside the box
- Lack of appetite
By reducing your pet's stress this holiday season, you will make it the most wonderful time of the year for all the humans and animals in your home!