No one sets out to bring stress into their home. Yet, during the festive season, we may find ourselves functioning at a higher pace than usual ahead of celebrations.

The change in routine with increased activity such as shopping, cooking, decorating, and entertaining means some pets who would normally behave like social butterflies could end up with butterflies in their stomach instead. Not to mention the stress some pets can experience when they are left alone without their family.

Common causes of pet anxiety during the holidays

Seasonal decorations

The comfort of a familiar space can be transformed with the appearance of a Christmas tree, flashing lights, shiny tinsel, and bright packages. Rearranging furniture in a room can also cause stress, so plan your decoration in stages to help them become familiar with the changes.

Extra visitors to your home

If you have more people than usual visiting your home, especially children, make sure you don’t pressure your cat or dog to be part of the mix if they don’t show signs of being comfortable. Kids shouldn’t chase or handle a nervous pet for both of their safety and wellbeing. Provide your pet with a ‘safe’ place for them to withdraw to if they need it, a quiet room or area outside away from the festivities.

Lack of sleep

Both cats and dogs sleep long hours often napping throughout the day. Increased activity at home during holiday periods can disturb their rest resulting in grumpiness or restlessness. Create a cosy area in a safe, quiet area to help them rest peacefully when they feel the need.

Too much excitement

Overstimulation is caused by more experiences, sensations, noise, and activity than they can cope with. New toys, constant visitors, changed routines, and rough play can result in pets losing control. Make sure you give them time out to rest in a quiet area, so they can calm down and return to their usual self.

Lack of exercise

Dogs need daily exercise for their physical and mental wellbeing, while cats require more play time, toys, and enriching stimulation. It’s understandable that sometimes we may forget these routines during busy holiday periods, but don’t forget about these special family members that still require daily enrichment.

Change of routine

Cats and dogs (in particular) find daily routines reassuring whether it’s feeding and exercise times or even the type of food they enjoy. Changing these habits can be confusing and disconcerting. As much as possible, try to maintain familiar patterns to alleviate any stress.

Separation anxiety

Dogs more than cats are prone to missing their human family if they are forced to spend time alone while you visit family and friends or take long trips away from home. This is a complex issue that may require further consultation with our veterinary team for advice on practical strategies to combat sadness and loneliness.

New Year’s fireworks

Many pets can develop a phobia of loud and unpredictable fireworks, especially during the festive season. Create a safe place inside where your pet can hide, offer them treats, and stay with them if at all possible, during fireworks. You could also close windows and curtains and turn up the TV volume to reduce the sound. Also, make sure your yard and home is secure as frightened pets can sometimes try to escape. Talk to our team in advance around solutions that can support your pet in coping with fireworks and festivities. Leaving it until they are already anxious and upset makes managing their distress much more challenging.

What to look for in an anxious pet

It’s important you know how to recognise if your pet is feeling anxious or distressed, so that you can attend to them immediately.

Look for signs such as:

• Excessive barking, howling, or whining
• Refusing to eat or drink water
• Intense pacing, trembling, panting, or cowering
• Urinating or defecating indoors
• Digging, scratching, or chewing

Cats may also display these particular signs of emotional distress:

• Hiding or trying to escape
• Holding their tail tightly to their body
• Hair standing up or holding their ears back
• Urinating outside their litter box

How to care for an anxious pet

Understanding the needs of a pet who’s stressed is the first step in helping them return to their normal fun, loving self especially during the holiday season.

While there are practical things you can do at home, it’s always advisable to consult our veterinary team about simple tricks and effective strategies you can adopt now and in the long term. Often pets may benefit from medication or other therapeutic treatments that your vet can recommend.

The festive holiday season should be fun and relaxing for everyone. Your furry loved ones will appreciate your special care and attention. Don’t forget the extra cuddles!

If you think your pet is suffering from anxiety or other behavioural issues, please contact us for advice.