This Is Why Your Pet Hates The Holidays

Your cats and dogs may attack the holiday tree with gusto, but that doesn’t mean they care so much for Christmas itself.

The noise, crowds, all the strange foods–even the holiday decor–can generate significant anxiety for both Fido and Fluffy, who don’t understand these seasonal disruptions. Just like Ebenezer Scrooge, your four-legged family is really just desperate for the holidays to end.

What’s festive to you can be frightening for pets, from the Christmas tree to holiday music to people hanging out in the kitchen for what your pet considers unusually long periods of time. These might seem like minor changes, but even small deviations from the usual household routine can set your pet on edge.

Every animal deals with holiday stressors differently, but cats and dogs tend to cope in different ways. Cats often go into hiding, while dogs may crouch, cower, pace, or start barking.

As stress levels rise, pets may also have a physical reaction. Cats start failing to use the litter box while dogs, especially those who’ve been eating from the people’s table, are suddenly afflicted by diarrhea–or worse.

Fortunately, there are a couple of ways you can mitigate your pet’s anxiety without canceling the entire celebration. First, take your dog for a walk before guests start to arrive, which will help him relax when the guests arrive and maybe even sleep.

Ask your guests to avoid using the doorbell, and–if your dog is especially anxious–take them out (on a leash) to meet new arrivals on their own terms. Anti-anxiety shirts/coats can also help soothe canine nerves, while pheremone diffusers offer similar comfort for cats.

Meanwhile, keep squeak-free toys, catnip, and treats/chews at the ready to provide nervous pets with helpful distractions. Snuggle toys and puzzle mats, in particular, can help anxious dogs feel safe.

If all else fails, just put your pets in a different room (ideally far, far away from the kitchen). You might feel sad they can’t spend the holidays with your extended family, but you’ll actually be doing them a huge favor.

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J. Swanson is a writer, traveler, and animal-enthusiast based in Seattle, an appropriately pet-crazed city where dog or cat ownership even outweighs the number of kids. When the weather permits, she likes to get outside and explore the rest of the Pacific Northwest, always with a coffee in hand.
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