Panic and Pet Anxiety Over the Holidays

iStock_000077561627_LargeThe chaos of the holidays can be highly stressful for pets. Changes to the feeding or walking schedule, strange visitors, or new accommodations make it challenging to keep your pet calm throughout this busy time of year.

Although relatives and other visitors may be welcome guests, they’re still unknown to your cat or dog. Since it can be difficult to anticipate how your pet will react, exercise careful planning to help alleviate panic and pet anxiety this holiday season.

Identify the Stressors

  • New faces – New people in your pet’s space will come as a surprise and may cause a fight or flight response.
  • Schedule variance – Adjustments in walking or feeding times can signal a life or death change in a pet’s world. Table scraps or treats might also seem trivial, but their effect on animals can be significant.  
  • Location changes – The complications involved in taking a pet to a new place can overwhelm even the most seasoned pet owner. If traveling for the first time, your cat or dog may have a stimulus overload.

Alter the Stressors

  • New faces – If new faces are going to be a problem, limit how often your pet sees them. Try boarding your pet with us or create a safe room with bedding, toys, food, and a familiar article of clothing. This space will provide a constant source of comfort and represent a retreat from pet anxiety.  
  • Schedules – Maintaining a consistent schedule is one of the most important steps you can take to alleviate holiday pet anxiety. Rather than a watch, a circadian or natural rhythm dictates your pet’s schedule for feeding and outdoor activities such as nature walks. If you must deviate from your regular routine, try to create an alternative schedule that you can stick to throughout the holiday season.
  • Locational relief – Changes in location can definitely affect your pet’s mood and even modifying a familiar space can feel like a total change to your pet. Rearranging the house for visitors, moving the dinner table, or changing sleeping arrangements can be very disruptive. Create some consistency for your pet by maintaining a quiet room, separate from all the noise and strangers. Keep it stocked with food, water, and a few favorite toys, and be sure to stop in for frequent hugs and cuddles!
  • Fun – Within reason, special treats and a few new toys can go a long way to distract your cat or dog and help alleviate pet anxiety this time of year.

Stay Consistent for Calm and Happy Holidays

Preparation is always better than improvisation during the holidays. Although some of the ideas require more planning than others, the techniques we discussed are essential to keeping pet anxiety at bay.

From all of us at Wellesley-Natick Veterinary Hospital, we wish you and your pet a happy and safe holiday season!