The holiday season is a time for celebration, but it can also be a stressful time for pets. With the influx of new people, decorations, and sounds, it’s important to take steps to keep your furry friends calm and happy. Here are some helpful tips from Melissa Stolz, Guelph Humane Society, Behaviour Coordinator on how to ensure your pet’s well-being during the holidays.

puppy under holiday tree
GHS Alum, Miller.
  1. Keep your pet’s routine as consistent as possible. While it’s natural to have more visitors and activities during the holiday season, it’s important to maintain your pet’s normal routine to reduce stressors. This includes feeding times, exercise, and quiet time.

  2. Create a safe space for your pet. It can be overwhelming for a pet to have lots of new people in the house, so it’s a good idea to create a comfortable space where they can retreat to if they need a break. This could be a quiet room or crate with their bed and toys.

  3. Provide instructions that visitors should let your pet approach them. If you have guests coming over, make sure they know to give your pets space and wait for your pet to approach them before they interact. Ensure your pet has a safe space where they can retreat from visitors and that vistors understand they should not enter your pet’s space. This can help your pet feel more comfortable and have the option to interact or retreat for privacy, if that’s where they feel most cozy.

  4. Keep things positive. If your pet becomes anxious or agitated during the holiday season, it’s important to make them comfortable by offering them space and giving them a food puzzle or treats to give them something positive to focus on. Avoid punishing or scolding your pet for being anxious, as this can increase their anxiety.

  5. Keep an eye on your pet’s behaviour. Pay attention to your pet’s behaviour during the holiday season and be aware of any changes that may indicate they are feeling stressed or anxious. Common signs of stress in pets include panting, pacing, hiding, and lethargy. If you notice any changes in your pet’s behaviour, try to address the issue to reduce interaction between the pet or the stressor as soon as possible.

  6. Consult with a veterinarian. If your pet is particularly anxious or has a history of anxiety, consult your family veterinarian. Signs of stress are similar to other health issue indicators. A visit to your veterinarian can rule out any medical issues, they can also make recommendations on how to manage your pet’s individual needs when interacting with strangers, crowds or general changes in their environment.

Remember to prioritize your pet’s well-being and provide them with the care and attention they need to feel comfortable and secure. Overall, the key to keeping pets calm and happy during the holidays is to be aware of their needs and to take steps to address any potential stressors, thereby ensuring that the holiday season is a happy and stress-free time for everyone in your household.