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Managing Anxiety in Cats and Dogs During Christmas

Managing Anxiety in Cats and Dogs During Christmas

The holiday season is a time of festivities and celebration, but for our pets it can also be a source of stress and anxiety. The hustle and bustle, change in routine, unusual sights, sounds and smells can make pets feel uneasy.  As responsible pet owners, it’s essential to be mindful of our pet's wellbeing and take steps to manage their anxiety during the Christmas season. Let’s look at some practical tips to ensure a stress-free holiday season for your cats and dogs. 

1. Understanding the Triggers 

The first step in managing anxiety in pets is identifying the potential triggers. For many pets, the arrival of guests, changes in household decorations, and exposure to new scents and sounds can be stressful for pets. Understanding what specifically causes anxiety in your cat or dog is crucial for implementing solutions. 

2. Create a calm environment 

Establish a quiet and comfortable space where your pet can retreat if the holiday commotion becomes overwhelming. This could be a designated room with their bed, toys and familiar scents. You can equip this space with familiar bedding, toys and water so they can be nice and comfortable. Encourage family members and guests to respect your pet’s need for solitude and provide them with the option to retreat to their haven whenever necessary. 

3. Maintain a consistent routine 

Pets thrive on routine, and disruptions can be a significant source of anxiety. Stick to your pets regular feeding, walking and playtime schedule as much as possible. Consistency provides a sense of security for your pets, helping them cope with the changes the holiday season may bring.  

4. Safety with decorations and Christmas tree 

Decorations can be both fascinating and intimidating for pets. Introduce them gradually to prevent overwhelming your pets. Allow pets to investigate new items at their own pace, and avoid sudden, dramatic changes in the home environment.

The twinkling lights, glittering ornaments and greenery can be very exciting for our pets and pose a risk. Tinsel, for example, is a popular decoration but can be harmful if ingested. Cats love to play with tinsel so keep an eye on them and try to redirect their play as much as possible. Tinsel can cause blockages in the digestive tract so to avoid this use pet friendly alternatives such as felt or fabric-based decorations if you are struggling with a curious cat.  

Christmas trees are another source of fascination for pets, particularly cats. Ensure your tree is securely anchored to prevent it from toppling over if your curious cat decides to climb it. Consider placing a gate around the tree to restrict access if you have a cat that wants to climb. Make sure you redirect behaviour as much as you can with novelty toys, alternative spaces and high value treats. 

5. Provide safe spaces  

Cats in particular may seek high perches or cozy hiding spots when stressed. Make sure there are safe spaces where your pets can look at the festivities from a distance and take space when they feel anxious. 

6. Limit exposure to noise 

Fireworks and loud gatherings can be distressing for pets. Create a quiet place or start desensitising your pet to noise in the lead up to the holiday season. This space should be comfortable, equipped with familiar bedding, and away from the noise and commotion. 

7. Use pheromone products  

Consider using pheromone diffusers or sprays designed to calm pets. These products mimic natural calming signals and can help alleviate stress in both cats and dogs. Products include Feliway, Adaptil and Zylkene

8. Offer interactive toys 

Provide toys that offer mental stimulation and engagement. Puzzle feeders or toys that dispense treats can be particularly effective in distracting and calming pets. Enhance their playtime experience by including products like Kong from YourPetPA. These interactive toys can contribute to both physical and mental well-being for your pets 

9. Avoid toxic treats 

Many festive foods are harmful to pets. Ensure that guests are aware of what not to feed your pets and keep treats and table scraps out of reach. Common dangers include chocolate, alcohol, and foods with bones or seasonings. 
Include familiar scents 

Maintain a sense of familiarity by incorporating familiar scents into your holiday decorations. This can include using pet friendly candles or incorporating blankets or beds that carry their scent. 

10. Identification and Microchipping 

With guests coming and going, there's an increased risk of doors being left open, potentially allowing pets to escape. Ensure your pets are wearing proper identification tags with up-to-date contact information. Additionally, consider the added security of microchipping your pets. In the unfortunate event that they do get lost, having a microchip greatly increases the chances of a successful reunion. 

11. Consult with your veterinarian 

If your pet has a history of anxiety or if you anticipate that the holiday season may be particularly challenging, consult with your veterinarian. They can provide advice, recommend calming supplements suitable for your pet or discuss other options tailored to your pet's needs. For personalized guidance and support, don't hesitate to ask our experts from YourPetPA

Every pet is unique, and what works for one may not work for another. Pay attention to your pet's behavior and adjust your approach accordingly. By taking proactive steps to manage anxiety, you can ensure that your four-legged family members have a calm and enjoyable Christmas season. Check out more helpful tips for pet owners by reading other articles on YourPetPA's blog. You'll find extra insights and practical advice for preventing anxiety in pets during New Year's Eve. Wishing you and your pets a calm and stress-free holiday!  

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