The holidays can be a stressful time of year for everyone, including your furry family members. Naturally, your pets may exhibit stress and anxiety differently than you do so it’s important to see the triggers and help ease the discomfort when they’re experiencing stress. Learn more about how to help your pet with stress and anxiety during the holidays, so you can enjoy everything the season has to offer together.
Holidays: how pets exhibit stress and anxiety
There are many new situations that can arise during the holidays.
For example, traveling to new places, meeting new people, and attending social functions including interactions with multiple animals can instigate stress.
“Pets can exhibit stress in a lot of different ways, but some the common signs can be things like excessive whining, panting, pacing, and hiding,” shares animal trainer Camille Barrios.
Barrios continues “If your pet is displaying some of these behaviors, then they may be stressed and may need some time to step away and calm down.” Find a quiet place to reconnect with your pet. Try to engage with an enrichment toy to focus and distract their mind from the environment.
Stressful holiday triggers for pets
Change can be an adjustment for animals. Naturally, the holidays seem to come with many new and unexpected situations.
“Anything that is a change to their usual routine can cause anxiety, so definitely holiday travel and parties would qualify,” cites Trupanion veterinarian Dr. Sarah Nold. “Some pets are more sensitive to new people, sounds, or smells than others. In fact, even moving a piece of furniture can be enough to stress out very sensitive pets.”
If you plan to travel with your pet, try testing out the environment first. Take a trip in the car, travel to the airport, or sit in the terminal. Let the pet get a sense of the smells, sounds, and the new environment.
Holiday stress for pets and how to help
The best way to reduce potential holiday stress for pets is to keep to a schedule and routine. “You can minimize these stressors on your pet by trying to keep to their routine as much as possible while traveling. Some pets may benefit from being left in the comfort of their own home with a house sitter,” advises Nold.
Hosting a party during the holidays
Hosting a party during the holidays, although fun, could trigger pets exhibiting stress and anxiety. Naturally, the hustle and bustle of new people in their home may make them feel overwhelmed. You may want to consider a small gathering or have an intimate party in your own backyard.
Also, there may be a concern if you have multiple pets in your home when it comes to your kitchen. Naturally, the kitchen is a popular spot for people to gather, including your furry friends. If you’re going to invite guests over, you may want to keep the kitchen pet-free.
Further, a virtual party may help keep friends and family connected but help provide a safe, happy, and healthy for everyone in the comforts of their own home.
Provide a safe and pet-friendly space
“If you are hosting a party consider confining your pet to a small room away from the activity with water, comfy bed, and new toys to help keep them busy, ” suggests Nold. “Also, white noise, like a fan, and turning on the tv or radio may also help. By not confining them to a separate room, you run the risk of them sneaking outside when the door opens, as well as them getting into tasty treats that may be dropped accidentally.”
Pets stress and anxiety over the holidays may take time
The holidays are a time for joy, celebration, and cheer to celebrate the companionship of your family members. Naturally, your furry friends are family, and with patience, love, and understanding you can help ease their experience with holiday stressors. If pets exhibit stress and anxiety during the holidays it’s something that can be helped and managed.
“If you know your pet is more sensitive than others, talk to your veterinarian about other options. These may include pheromone sprays/diffusers and/or anti-anxiety medication,” advises Nold.
To learn more about pet socialization, read How to Safely Introduce Dogs and Cats: A Pet Owner Guide