As the holidays draw near, the pressure mounts to do it all—decorate the most beautiful Christmas tree, buy the perfect gift, and cook the juiciest turkey. Friends and neighbors stop by unexpectedly to share cookies and other goodies. At work, deadlines loom as the year winds down. All that pressure creates serious stress, which your pet likely will pick up from you. Stressed-out pets may behave poorly when overwhelmed, and you may notice inappropriate elimination, excessive barking, or destruction of your decorations. Although the holidays are the most wonderful time of the year, they can also be the most stressful, leading to an anxious furry companion.
To help your pet cope with an overwhelming holiday season, try the following tips at home:
#1: Create a soothing sanctuary
An oasis of calm in the midst of all the holiday hubbub can help ease your pet’s stress and anxiety. Not all pets are party animals, and many prefer solitude to being the life of the party. Set up a sanctuary for your pet before the holiday festivities begin so she has plenty of time to explore and become familiar with the room. Choose an out-of-the-way room, such as a den, spare bedroom, or home office, plug in a pheromone diffuser that emits calming, comforting scents, and stock the room with food puzzles, interactive toys, and a cozy bed to entice your pet hang out and relax. When the doorbell begins ringing, encourage your pet to go to her sanctuary, offer her a stuffed Kong filled with goodies, and block out the party tunes by playing calming classical music or melodies designed solely for relieving anxiety in pets. Your furry friend’s sanctuary will be so welcoming, you’ll likely want to retreat there for your own stress relief.
#2: Engage in plenty of play
Cats and dogs need ample exercise to stave off bad behaviors and physical health issues. You may be overwhelmed, but make it a point to engage in daily play sessions with your pet. Interactive toys and games help strengthen your bond, relieve stress, burn holiday calories, and alleviate boredom. Bored pets are stressed pets, and likely to act out and get into mischief—such as urinating on the Christmas tree or snatching the holiday ham—so get up and get moving. Five- to 10-minute play or exercise sessions twice daily can burn off steam, engage your pet’s mind, relieve stress, and help ensure you and your pet are happy and healthy.
#3: Stick to a routine
Maintaining a regular routine during the holiday season can be difficult, but try to stick to some semblance of your normal daily activities. A complete change in your behavior and routine can create stress and anxiety in your pet, who thrives on routine and expected behaviors. When you’re surrounded by the holiday season chaos, calm your pet’s fears by keeping her feeding times consistent, providing ample time for play and attention, and sticking to the same bedtime.
#4: Tame the terror with treats
Treats can turn an unpleasant experience into a positive situation. As you pick up on your pet’s stressors (e.g., loud music, ringing doorbells, strange people, and moving furniture), switch her focus to tasty treats you hold in your hand. Choose the most delicious treat—break out the tuna flakes, braunschweiger, or tiny pieces of cheese—that will help your pet form a positive association quickly. When your pet reacts to her terror triggers, avert her focus to her favorite goodies. Over time, she’ll pair her trigger with a treat, and the positive association will ease her fear.
#5: Ask for professional help
While you’ve done all you can to manage your pet’s anxiety at home, sometimes the holiday stress is simply too overwhelming. If your pet cannot cope, and her stress and anxiety is putting a damper on the festivities, we can help with anti-anxiety options, such as supplements, medications, and behavior-modification regimens.
We understand that the holidays can be too much for many pets, who need a helping paw to make the season merry and bright. Give us a call and let us help soothe your pet’s stress.