The holidays are a festive time for us humans. We get to celebrate each event with our loved ones and eat some delicious foods. The holiday season is meant to be a time of joy, but for our furry friends, the holidays can mean stress, anxiety, and for some, outright terror. Even the most well-adjusted and socialized cats and dogs can develop stress during the holidays.
As loving pet parents, we’re always looking for ways to keep our pets as happy and healthy as possible. Over this holiday season, there are a few ways you can help your pet have a stress-free holiday.
Exercise Your Pet Before an Event
Whether you plan on having an event at your house, or you’re going to be out for the evening, giving your pet enough exercise and playtime can prevent many problems that could arise. Exercise can help them burn off excess energy that might otherwise be funneled to anxious fidgeting or even destructive behavior.
For dogs, the amount of exercise they need is based on their age and size. Older and smaller dogs will need less exercise while younger and bigger dogs take more time to tire out. If possible, take your pup out for a long walk before you leave for the night or before guests arrive.
Cats also need some exercise, though their playtime is a little less structured. Aim for a few heart-racing play sessions throughout the day that last between 2 to 3 minutes, or until your cat decides he’s had enough.
For both cats and dogs, ending the night with a play session can be beneficial to burn off any excitement they may have gotten during the event or while you were away.
Have a Safe Space
Cats and dogs that get nervous around new people or around a lot of people will naturally look for a place to hide. If that’s the case, it’s better to have a designated space for them that’s filled with all of their favorite goodies to help comfort them. This may be a crate or a separate room with their favorite toy, a comfy bed, and maybe a couple of treats.
This can especially be helpful for animals who have separation anxiety. Many strategies for separation anxiety use crates and toys that will distract them from their anxiety. If pets are used to being secluded while you’re gone, then they will believe it’s like any other day. Following a routine can also help reduce stress. If there is music or other loud noises, this safe room can help alleviate any additional stress by muffling the sound.
Add Decorations Slowly
For some pets, adding all of your holiday decorations at once might mean a chance to explore. However, this quick addition may also add stress for some pets. If possible, it’s best to decorate your home and yard slowly over a couple of weeks. This will allow your pet to get used to a couple decorations at a time before new ones are presented.
It’s also necessary to keep your decorations as pet-friendly as possible. All decorations should be made from non-toxic materials. If possible, it’s best to supervise your pets around wires and breakable objects to prevent them from chewing on or even swallowing pieces. Consider decorating one room or blocking off the space when you can’t be present.
Being around our pets can reduce our anxiety and make us even healthier. However, pets tend to absorb our stress, and we all know that the holiday season is one of the most stressful parts of the year. While having pet-friendly decorations, giving your pet enough exercise, and providing a safe place can help our pets have a stress-free holiday season, we must also take care of our own anxiety to help our pets even more.