The holiday season is here, and for many people that means a whirlwind of plans, parties, and even travel. As much as we love all the fun and excitement, it can also be a very stressful time of year. But, if it’s stressful for you, it’s also going to be stressful for your pet!
The sudden addition of new decor and presents under the tree, new friends and familiar family, and all kinds of fun and interesting foods are a lot for a pet to cope with. Even the most relaxed and well socialized pets can have difficulty adjusting, and if you have a new puppy, it can be doubly challenging to maintain discipline and training goals with so many new people around. Here are some holiday entertaining tips to make sure both you and your pet have the most stress-free holiday season yet.
Signs of stress in dogs
If you have a nervous dog, you may already be familiar with the signs of stress in dogs. If this is your first holiday season with a new puppy, here are some of the things to look out for:
- Increased licking or biting themselves, which is often a symptom of anxiety
- Diarrhea, vomiting, or other digestive issues can be a symptom of increased stress
- Trembling, tail tucking, reduced activity, or hiding and withdrawal can be a sign of fear
Signs of stress in cats
These are all very similar to symptoms of stress and anxiety in cats as well. Of course, it’s difficult to relax and have fun at your holiday gatherings when your pet is distressed, so it’s important to take some time and plan ahead to keep a nervous dog or cat as relaxed and comfortable as possible.
Ways to keep your pets calm during holiday parties
- Confine your pets for a portion of the event. If possible, keep your pets away from the party and guests in a comfortable, familiar space. If you have an open plan house, you may want to use temporary pet gates to keep dogs in a separate part of the house. It can be easier and less stressful for them to be crated or contained at least until all the guests have arrived and there is less action at the front door, or until after food has been served to reduce the extra stimulation that food can provide. Allow the pets out when the party atmosphere has calmed a bit.
- Monitor their food intake. A lot of human food is unhealthy for pets, and if you are having potlucks, or have indulgent grandparents, it can be difficult to be sure your pets are eating healthy foods during a holiday party. You may want to give your guests healthy pet treats to spoil your pets with, and discourage feeding human foods.
- Use technology to help lower your pet’s stress. In recent years, a number of pet-calming sprays have been developed, that use pheromones to calm cats and dogs. Not all of these products work on all pets, but they are a safe and natural way to calm stress, and have been shown to be effective. You could also use a pet-soothing playlist that may help to mask the unusual sounds of a holiday gathering and provide a calming influence. There are a variety of dog and cat-soothing audio and video playlists available.
- Remain calm yourself. Believe it or not, your own stress is likely to be the most stressful thing for your pet. Making holiday entertaining relaxing and enjoyable for yourself is the best way to take care of them. We have compiled some great tips to keep your parties fun and enjoyable, without breaking the bank or stressing yourself out.
Remember that holiday gatherings are about celebrating togetherness and enjoying each other, not about picture-perfection. If you make your holiday planning easy on yourself, you will naturally make it easier on your pets as well. May you and your pets have a happy, joyous, and stress-free holiday season this year!