Tips To Manage Your Pet’s Holiday Stress

close up photography of white cat besides christmas lights

While the holidays can be a fun time for us with all the decorations, parties, and presents it can be a very stressful time for our pets.  Particularly pets who already are more fearful, anxious or stressed can feel even more overwhelmed during the holidays.  So, what can we do to help them out?  Here are some tips and tricks:

  • SECURE THE DOOR: It’s easy for a dog or cat to slip by lots of people coming in and not everyone will be vigilant at the door to make sure they don’t sneak out.
    • Block off the entryway with a pet gate or baby gate to allow room for people to enter your house, close the door and then come through the gate so your pet stays safe.
    • Contain them in a safe space by putting your dog or cat in a bedroom or crate during the coming and goings of a party to keep them safe.
  • FOOD SAFETY: Even foods that aren’t toxic can cause GI upset, vomiting, diarrhea, and pancreatitis if your pet isn’t used to having them.  It’s better to have a frozen Kong or safe bone that your dog can chew on while everyone is eating to help avoid begging from the table as well.
    • Make sure holiday food is placed in an area your pet can’t reach. If you have a dog that is prone to counter surf placing all your food out in one room while people are busy in another is setting them up to steal the food.
    • Again, safety is key, keep your pet in another area of the house if they can’t be supervised.
    • Also, remind people to please not feed their pets off the table.


  • DECORATE WITH PETS IN MIND: Decorations, especially for puppies and curious cats, can also pose a risk to our pets.
    • Things like tinsel, ornaments hanging from a tree, and other decorations can entice curious kittens and puppies to play with them.
    • Forego the glass ornaments if your pet is prone to playing with the holiday decor!
    • If ingested these items can cause GI upset, or worse, blockage, which then requires emergency surgery.
  • REAL TREE VS. FAKE TREE: Both can cause a hazard for our pets if knocked over. Real Christmas trees can also pose a health hazard if pets are either eating the needles or drinking the water from the tree.
    • Most needles from trees aren’t toxic but they can cause GI upset if ingested.
    • Water from the tree can become toxic if additives are put into the water to help the tree live longer.


  • TRAVELING DO’S AND DONT’S: Visiting relatives often bring their pets with them or people encourage you to bring your pets when you visit them.
    • Unless the pets are used to each other and see each other on a regular enough basis that you know they get along well it would be safer to leave the pets at home.
      • Again, with the higher stress levels around the holidays, more people coming and going and people being less likely to pay attention to the pets interacting you are more likely to have a fight break out.
      • The holidays are not the ideal time to introduce new dogs to each other.  It’s better to leave your dog at home where they are comfortable.
    • People are less likely to bring their cats along for the holidays but remember if you do that cats are extremely territorial and often do not do well with a “visitor” cat for a couple days.
      • That stress can cause fights, urinating outside of the box and destructive behavior from both cats involved.
    • If you are having people over with their pets, take your dog for a long walk or have a fun play session with your cat to help tire them out prior to the guest’s arrival.
      • Everyone will get along better if they are tired.
    • Also, keep in mind new toys and treats are more likely to spark a fight if a dog or cat views the new objects as theirs and they don’t want to share them.
      • Even housemates that are used to each other can fight over a new coveted toy or treat that they view as particularly high value.
  • ROUTINE IS KEY: Because the holidays can cause extra stress on us all do your best to keep your pets routine the same. Try to keep meals and walks at the same time when possible.


  • CREATE A SAFE PLACE: If you have an easily stressed pet, then give them a safe space away from the holiday and guests arriving.
    • For cats make sure their food, pet, cat tree and litterbox are all in their safe space.
    • For dogs make sure they have their bed, a kong or other treat-filled toy and any other objects they find reassuring with them.
    • Both dogs and cats can benefit from having pheromones either plugged in the room you are in or having a bandana or collar on with the pheromones. Also consider playing soft classical music, or through a dogs’ ear, to help promote a calming atmosphere.
    • Place a sign on the door letting guests know a pet is in the room and to please give the pet their space and not disturb them.

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