The hustle and bustle of the holiday season can be stressful for everyone. It can be easy to think that holiday stress doesn’t affect pets, but the changes to their home and routine, the traveling, and having visitors can be hard on some pets, and pets often pick up on our own stress that tends to be higher this time of year. Whatever your holiday plans are, there are some simple things you can do to keep your pets calm and comfortable so that everyone has a happy holiday.
Preparing Your Home
Keep your pet’s feelings and safety in mind as you decorate your home for the holidays. Changes to their “territory” can be very stressful for some animals. If possible, don’t move or change the areas of your home where your pet likes to sleep and where your pet eats.
Keep Routines Consistent
Throughout the holidays, whether at home or traveling, do your best to stick to your pet’s regular schedule for eating, exercise, play, and sleep. You may want to consider hiring a dog walker or pet sitter if holiday events are going to keep you from being home to feed your pets or walk your dog at their usual time.
Exercise is Important
Exercise is a natural stress reliever for both people and pets so try to give your pet a little extra this time of year especially before traveling, having company over, or other events that you know will be stressful for your pet. A evening walk with your dog is a great way for the whole family to unwind and also gives you the opportunity to enjoy your neighbor’s Christmas lights and displays.
Create a Quiet Retreat
Being around unfamiliar people can be stressful for many pets, particularly cats. If you’ll be hosting a holiday party or family gathering, make sure there is a cozy, quiet area of the home for your pet to retreat to if they get overwhelmed. Have a bed, a few favorite toys, and a water bowl there for your pet, and make sure guests know not to disturb your pet.
Traveling with Your Pets
If your holiday plans include traveling out of town, it can be tempting to want to bring your pets with you to spend the holidays together, but before you do, consider your pet’s personality and if they will really enjoy the trip. Many cats and some more sensitive dogs will not be happy on a long car ride and will feel uncomfortable staying in an unfamiliar place. If you do decide to travel with your pets, then keeping a consistent routine and providing exercise and a quiet area are even more important now your pets are out of their territory. Be sure to bring some of your pet’s favorite toys, their regular food, and their bed to keep them comfortable. When traveling by car keep your pet in a carrier or crate or buckled in a travel harness for your and their safety.
Take Care of Yourself
Enough can’t be said for minimizing your holiday stress for your own sake as well as for your pets. Remember the holidays are meant to be about enjoying yourself and spending time with those you love and not about doing so much that you burn out. Be mindful of your own stress levels, and allow yourself time and space to relax when you need it. And remember, cuddling with your dog or cat is a great to relieve stress for both of you!