Stress-Free Holidays for Your Pets

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’Twas that long-anticipated holiday time and all through the house, not a creature was stirring…except Fido the dog and Fluffy the cat, who were freaking out!

The holidays are filled with hustle and bustle, and that fast-paced dynamic can leave many of us reeling from exhaustion and forgetting the meaning of the season. Planning a stress-free holiday is a bit of a unicorn since everyone wants it, but very few seem to know how to successfully achieve it. There’s a fine line between topsy-turvy and holiday bliss when it comes to the most joyous time of year.

What many people don’t realize is that this heightened time of stress and anxiety also affects our pets. Parties, shopping, excitement, expected and unexpected company and more activity than usual disrupt household schedules. As humans we can read a calendar and know that these hectic times are coming, but imagine this unexpected shift in atmosphere and schedule from your pet’s perspective. They are unaware of the looming festivities and only know that their pet parents are snappy, frazzled and there’s suddenly a whole herd of strange humans in their house. Soon our beloved fur children are just as anxious and stressed as we are. Only Fred, the turtle, seems unaffected by the frenetic activity because…well…he’s a turtle.

But there are ways to buffer the effects of this busy time of year when it comes to our pets. For many of us, our pets are like members of our family and going the extra mile for their safety, sanity and comfort isn’t an inconvenience; it’s an act of love. Here are some ideas for ways to reduce our own holiday chaos, which in turn will positively affect our four-legged family members.

Planning Is Everything
The first step in planning for a stress-free holiday is prioritizing your time. Whenever possible, figure out what activities are upcoming and which ones need your attention and time. Use that pre-planning to take into account your pet’s schedule and endeavor to work around it if possible. If Fido is used to taking a walk after work or getting a potty break at noon, work out alternative options or shift your activities away from those times.

Consider your pet’s domain as well. Your home is their kingdom, so to keep stress at a minimum, make sure your dogs or cats have an escape plan when the Rowdy family stops by for their holiday visit. Unless they are very sociable critters, make your pets comfortable in a safe, warm and quiet area until your visitors leave. Felines are particularly sensitive when it comes to stress and are less likely to want to hang out with your company than a canine.

Keeping mealtimes and scheduled walks the same will also go a long way in smoothing out the bumps in your pet’s life during the holidays. Humans thrive on routine and set schedules just as pets do, so this step is a sanity saver for everyone in your household.

Attention Disorder
Another source of stress for pets during the holiday season is attention, either too much or too little. Too much attention, particularly from little visitors, can make sensitive pets grumpier and excitable pets that much more excited. Be aware of your pet’s temperament and limits and plan accordingly. This word of caution also applies to our feathered friends as well, since birds are not exempt from holiday upset. Little fingers poking through the cage can be worrisome and stressful to feathered pets, so it may be best to retire your bird to a quieter area for some temporary peace and tranquility until guests leave.

Don’t be afraid to set ground rules for handling your pets, especially for visiting children. Use the opportunity to educate youngsters on the proper way to handle and respect animals. Overzealous little humans sometimes forget that Fido is not a wrestling buddy or Fluffy isn’t fond of having her tail repeatedly pulled. This education and rule-setting can also help avoid issues with pets who have had enough and start to lash out in self-defense. If your visitors bring their pet over, let the animals meet and greet each other on their own terms; don’t force the friendship.

The Gift of Time
Above all, make time for your pets. Spending time with our fur babies is beneficial to humans and animals alike; studies have shown that the simple act of petting a dog or cat can lower the blood pressure of their owner. Pets have a calming effect on humans, but they can also feel our emotions as well. When life at home is hectic and we find ourselves stressed and frazzled, that anxiety is easily transferred to our pets. By slowing down, relaxing and taking the time to nurture the health and well-being of our pets we are in effect nurturing ourselves as well. Enjoy your holiday season! HLM

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