Holidays are a time of fun and cheer for many, but they can also be a time of stress and fatigue. Just like you may be feeling overwhelmed and exhausted from party planning and the whirlwind of guests coming and going from your home, your pets can also feel this way.
Pet stress during the holidays is often heightened due to the large number of strangers visiting the home, people touching and playing with the pets, loud noises and unfamiliar scents. Stress in cats and dogs can manifest into behavior problems, health issues and more. Therefore, it’s very important that you pay attention to your beloved pets and keep them safe and happy amongst the holiday festivities.
It’s possible that your pets will be completely fine during your holiday party, in which case, feel free to let them roam around as they please. For some pets, though, parties and large gatherings can be overwhelming at best and downright terrifying at worst.
Before having people over, consider how your pet takes to strangers, noise and touch from people who aren’t household members. If your pet has a history of poor reactions to strangers and parties, you’ll want to make plans for what to do with it while the party is occurring, so it remains safe, happy and stress-free.
How your pets may feel
Your pets may react negatively to a number of stimulants during a holiday party. Here are some common causes of stress in dogs and cats during gatherings.
- Strangers: Meeting new people can be overwhelming for pets, particularly cats or shy pets. If your pet takes well to strangers, you may not have problems, but a normally social dog can still become overwhelmed when a large group of 50 new faces walks through the door.
- Attention and touch: Being petted, held and played with by strangers may be stressful for your dog or cat, especially if they are already stressed by the strangers’ presence in the first place. Your pet may try to avoid being touched but cannot or may be approached by strangers who don’t understand your pet’s warning signals.
- Children: If children are attending your party or gathering, they may be a significant source of stress for your pet. Children often lack the understanding of how to appropriately approach and touch a dog or cat. Dogs may be more forgiving of rough petting or hugs, but cats are more likely to become aggressive out of fear.
- Loud noises: If your house is normally quiet (or at least a moderate volume), pets may become stressed when confronted with a wall of loud noise.
Tips for managing party stress
Parties may send your pet into a stressed-out frenzy, but there are many ways you can help calm its anxiety and keep it safe and happy until the party is over.
- Make quality time: Before the party starts, take some time to go for a walk or run with your pets or devote some quality time to playing with them in the house. This attention from their owner, combined with the exercise from walking or playing, can put your pet in a calmer, sleepier state that will help them relax more during the party. You should also give your pet some attention during the party to remind them you are there and are catering to its needs.
- Keep the pet away: If your pet won’t be able to safely socialize at the party, put everything your pet may need in a room or area of the house where guests won’t be (like an upstairs area or bedroom) so they can remain safe apart from the gathering. Give the pet comfort items, a bed, food, water and toys to keep it occupied. If you’re keeping a dog away from the party, be sure to check on it regularly to make sure it doesn’t need to go to the bathroom.
- Create a safe haven: If you’re going to let your pet roam around the house while the party is going on, you should still create a space of its own that it can retreat to if it gets overwhelmed. Keep comfort items in this area and make sure it can access it at all times and that it’s not in a location where party guests will go.
- Keep your pet leashed: By keeping your pet on a leash as you greet guests or by putting it behind a baby gate in a safe room, you allow your pet to get used to the growing number of visitors and calm down before choosing to enter the party.
- Inform guests of etiquette: All pet owners are different and have different rules for their pets. Make sure to tell your guests what they can and cannot do with your pet, so they are aware of the best way to treat it. If your cat is okay being around guests but doesn’t like to be touched, tell people to avoid petting it. If your dog tends to be afraid of males but takes to females well, keep guests informed. Also, keep a close eye on children to make sure they are treating your pet in an appropriate way.
By giving your pet a place to relax away from guests and paying close attention to its needs and behavior, you’ll be better equipped to manage your pet’s stress level and help it stay safe and happy while also enjoying your holiday festivities.