Your cats and dogs may attack the holiday tree with gust, 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 also come with a time clock. Just like Ebenezer Scrooge, your four-legged family are really just desperate for the holidays to end.
Even small things outside the usual household routine can also aggravate the situation, from the holiday tree to the music to people hanging out in the kitchen for what your pet considers an unusual amount of time. “Those might be small differences,” Dr. Michael Comalli, VMD, told Pennsylvania’s Reading Eagle, but “animals know that things are different than usual and they get anxious.”
Every animal deals with said holiday stressors differently, but cats and dogs tend to cope in a couple of different ways. Cats often go into hiding, while dogs may crouch, cower, pace, or start to bark. As stress levels rise, pets may also have a physical reactions. Cats start failing to use the litter box while dogs, especially those who’ve been eating from the big 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 or her 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 him or her out to meet new arrivals on his or her terms, while on the lead. Keep squeak-free toys, cat nip, and treats at the ready, all of which can be a helpful distraction.
If none of these things seem to work, there are some veterinary interventions. Thundershirts are a anxiety-reducing body wrap that can help calm your canine in stressful situations. DAP collars also help by emitting stress-alleviating pheromones; the FELIWAY diffuser offers similar comfort for cats.
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.