(239) 344-8959

Get a Quote

How to Help Your Pets Have A Stress-Free Holiday

Published on: November 16, 2022  |  Author: Starwood Pet Travel

Abominable snowman dogs
Getting through the holidays has a lot in common with making a major household move when it comes to stress and anxiety. That’s as true for pets as it is for the humans in their lives. But it doesn’t have to be the case. There are a number of things you can do to relieve pet holiday stress. You may even feel less stressed yourself.
Cats, in particular, don’t like changes to their environment or routine. Sadly for them, the holidays bring plenty of change – lights and decorations inside and outside the house, lots of deliveries and visitors and ringing doorbells, noisy parties, strange smells, and people wearing all sorts of strange apparel or costumes. Chaos can make even the most fun-loving dogs anxious, too.
Rearranging the house to accommodate visiting relatives, holiday decor, and more dining chairs often means your pet’s personal belongings are relocated to some strange place. This can feel disorienting and worrisome to them.

How do you know if your pet is stressed out?

Their least attractive traits may become more obvious, or they may start to engage in unwanted behaviors you’ve never had to deal with before. Regressive (or passive-aggressive) behaviors might include whining, destructive chewing or clawing, or “forgetting” to use the litter box or go potty outside. Overtly aggressive behaviors can pop up such as barking, growling, jumping up on people, and resource guarding. And we all know about counter surfing – or counter-climbing, in the case of cats. However, some pets might go into hiding instead.
The truth is, in most of these cases, your poor pet is merely trying to exert some amount of control over their life when it seems as if things have gone out of control. It’s up to you to show them better ways to cope. And show that you haven’t forgotten them in all the excitement.
In some cases, you can train pets to respond more appropriately. If that doesn’t work, or you don’t have time, there are ways you can manage each situation to reduce pet holiday stress.

Practical tips for managing pet holiday stress

Beyond the emotional side of pet holiday stress, you want to consider your pet’s health and safety, too. Extension cords, packing materials, wrapping paper and ribbon, candles, and other decorations – anything that could be chewed - all present potential hazards. Is your dog likely to chew the tree or low-hanging ornaments? Is your cat likely to take a run up the tree’s trunk? Try surrounding your decorations with something to deter them from getting into trouble, like a baby gate or child safety fence.
And did you know that Poinsettia plants are poisonous? Keep them out of reach, if need be. Many holiday-favorite foods are poisonous or can cause digestive problems for pets. It’s the time of year when we tend to set out bowls and plates of candy, cookies, and snacks – all things pets should not have. Raisins and chocolate are especially toxic, as are many ordinary “people” foods.
Disrupt their routine as little as possible. Stick to the usual feeding times, food, bowls, and location.
If you must relocate your pet’s bed, give them a space they can still consider their own.
Your dog’s crate can remain a go-to safe space, even if it’s in a different room. Be sure they have plenty of toys, puzzles, or long-lasting chews to keep them busy when you’re eating or have guests. If crating your dog isn’t an option, choose a room that can be "theirs" and put their toys, bed, etc. in there. Close the door or invest in a baby gate to keep them separated from stressful activities.
Since cats like quiet, allot a room to your kitty. Put their favorite toys, scratching posts, bedding, and litter box in here. Since most kitties like to play and climb in strange places, you can make the space even cozier by adding a few cardboard boxes. You can even toss in one of your old T-shirts since the familiar scent will add a calming factor to the surroundings.
Consider dog training. Holidays or not, there is no reason for you or your dog to endure barking, jumping, lunging, or other unruly behaviors. Your pup will be less stressed all the time once they learn to redirect themselves.
Finally, there’s no reason to cut your pet out of the holiday fun. Do everything you can to help them relax away from the commotion, but include them in as many festivities as they can handle. Give them a wrapped present they can rip open with wild abandon. Treat them to a little of your (unseasoned, skinless) turkey, or plain mashed potatoes. Above all, give the gift of holiday love – plenty of one-on-time time playing or just hanging out.
New Call-to-action

Starwood Animal Transport has rebranded to Starwood Pet Travel. We are still the same great company with the best team, just now with a slightly different name.