Time to read: 6 mins
Christmas can be a stressful time of the year for many dogs and cats. Many families and friends will be coming together to enjoy the festivities together.
Our homes are often a quiet calm place for our pets, but Christmas can generally mean a significant change. The Kennel Club, 2021 found that nearly a quarter of pet owners reported behavioural changes in their pets over the festive period with routines being changed and daily life interrupted. Suddenly our peaceful homes are bustling with energy; there is a large tree, flashing lights, decorations, wrapped gifts, excited children and unfamiliar smells that can all cause stress. We often having unfamiliar visitors in the house or people staying overnight which can cause stress and anxiety for our pets as well. We will try to give you some tools to help better prepare your pets for the festive season and chat to your veterinary team for additional help as needed.
Tips to help reduce stress at home
- Change things gradually when putting the decorations up in the home giving your pets a chance to acclimatise to their changing surroundings.
- Dogs love routine and cats are creatures of habit too, keep to their usual walking and feeding times as this is reassuring to them, water bowls and feed bowls should be easily accessible in a quieter area of the house away from all the guests and excitement.
- Guests may be keen to make friends with your pet; encourage them to allow the pets to come to them in their own time.
- Create a safe place like a den or a room or even use a baby gate to separate part of the room or house for your pet. Make sure it has a warm cosy bed in it so they have some where to retreat to when they want to escape the excitement. Also make sure there is fresh water close by and toys to keep them occupied. Cats often like to be high up so a soft blanket on top of a wardrobe would be appreciated.
- Monitor the room temperature as anxious dogs can be prone to overheating.
- Make sure that visitors, particularly excitable children, understand that the dog or cat’s safe place is off limits to people and that they should leave the cat or dog alone when they are in the safe place.
If you are going to be travelling with your pet over the festive period, it’s just as vital to ensure they are safe and not stressed or anxious.
- Take toys and games to keep your dog occupied on the journey or at your destination. Don’t suddenly change your routine and ignore your pet. If they are used to lots of play and interaction, they will feel isolated so take time to make sure they get the normal level of interaction with you.
- Stick to their feeding and walking routines. Check in advance for local walks, parks, and exercise areas you could take your dog to.
- Take all your pet’s normal food, medications, and bedding with you so they have familiar smells and make sure you look up numbers for local emergency vets, just in case.
Other ways you can help
There are various stress relieving options on the market to further aid your pet if you feel they are needed. It’s advisable you consult your veterinary team before starting any new supplements.
Dog Appeasing Pheromones (sold as Adaptil) are sold in various formulations.They release a chemical copy of appeasing pheromones that lactating bitches produce when they are nursing their pups. It tells dogs that they are in a safe place and that they can relax. There is some evidence to show that this can reduce stress when used in conjunction with some of the methods already discussed.
Feliway diffuser and sprays are products that emulate natural pheromones released by a mother cat to calm her kittens, like the chemical that cats emit through the glands on their faces when they are feeling calm This pheromone works on cats’ brains to calm them down and help relieve stress and anxiety.
Zylkene is a calming supplement that comes in a capsule which contains a natural ingredient derived from a protein in milk called casein that has clinically proven calming properties to help reduce stress in cats.
Christmas is a wonderful time of the year for us all and its important to bear in mind the impact we might be having on our pets. Take a few precautions to ensure the whole family can have a fun and safe festive period.