The holidays are often synonymous with joy, family, and love, but they can also bring along stress. Stress is common around the holidays in both us and our four-legged family members, and it’s important to set your furry friends up for success this holiday season. First, make sure you can identify signs of stress and anxiety in your pets, which can include changes in appetite or sleep schedules, destructive chewing or scratching, pacing, and inappropriate eliminating (outside of the litter box or in the house.) Pets may also have changes in their body language such as drooling, heavy panting, tense bodies, tucked tails, or rounded eyes with dilated pupils. Though some pets seem calm, they may still be experiencing distress. Some ways to help alleviate stress in pets during the holidays are:
- If you are traveling and must leave your pets alone, consider having a pet sitter come stay at your home instead of boarding them at a boarding facility.
- If you choose to use a boarding facility, get a tour of their facility to make sure that your pets will be comfortable there, and bring along their own food, toys, and bedding.
- Don’t give pets leftovers or table scraps – these can often cause digestive upset or even some serious medical concerns.
- Ensure your pets have a safe, quiet place to retreat to (such as a bedroom or crate) where they will be left to rest during holiday gatherings or parties. Give them appropriate chew and play toys in their safe space like stuffed KONGs, bully sticks, or other toys that they enjoy.
- Don’t allow anyone, including family or friends, to corner or force petting. If your pet is avoiding or moving away from touch or people, respect their wishes and give them space.
- Try and keep your schedule as consistent as possible so that bathroom breaks, walks, and play time are still happening at the same times each day.
- Make sure ornaments and decorations are out of reach of paws, claws, and tails. There are many unbreakable ornament options out there for those with playful kitties.
- If your holiday festivities include fireworks, keep your pet indoors with the windows closed. If they are known to be scared of loud noises, talk to your veterinarian about medication options.
For many homes, pets are part of the family and involving them in holiday festivities can be fun for all involved. Ensuring all of our family members, pets included, feel safe and comfortable this holiday season should be on everyone’s wish list.