During the winter holidays, parties abound to celebrate the season with fun, food, and laughter. As we all know, though, holidays parties can cause stress and anxiety. If we get stressed and anxious at holiday parties, imagine how our pets must feel!
Do pets really have anxiety? They certainly do! Pet anxiety is a real thing that is especially important to manage during the hubbub and excitement of the holidays. It can manifest itself through different problem behaviors. Pet anxiety symptoms include:
- House soiling
- Destructive behaviors
- Excessive barking or whining
- Begging for food (especially during parties)
To nip this anxiety in the bud, try some of the strategies listed below to keep your pet calm at your next holiday party.
Before the party
- Talk to your veterinarian. Your veterinarian can help you devise a plan to reduce your pet’s anxiety. For some pets, this plan may include anti-anxiety medicine. Your veterinarian can determine if your pet will need medication.
- Maintain a normal routine. Party preparations can throw off your pet’s normal schedule, which can cause anxiety. As much as possible, maintain your pet’s normal daily routines before guests start arriving.
- Acclimate your pet to small groups and strangers. Not all pets are comfortable around strangers or large groups of people. In the days leading up to the party, consider hosting small gatherings of people your pet knows, including a pet-friendly friend your pet doesn’t know. Give your pet positive reinforcement (petting, treats)—and encourage your guests to do so, too—when your pet demonstrates good behavior.
- Groom and exercise your pet. Grooming is a great bonding experience that can soothe your pet before guests arrive. Also, a long walk or extended play time can leave your pet feeling happily exhausted before the party.
- Create a safe space. A quiet, safe, and secluded space works wonders for anxious pets during holiday parties. This space should include food, water, a comfortable bed, and favorite toys (especially food puzzle toys). Cats will need their litter box, options for hiding and climbing, and, preferably, a window to look out of. Calming music and pheromone sprays like Feliway® are also good for safe spaces.
During the party
- Keep the safe space off-limits to guests. When you place your pet in their safe space, put a “Please do not disturb” sign on the door so your pet can stay calm and undisturbed. Be aware that your dog may not need to stay tucked away for the whole party; you can determine when your dog will need its quiet time.
- Manage your pet’s introduction to guests. If your dog is out when guests arrive, take control of introducing your dog to party attendees. This can help keep your dog calm around people. Make sure that each guest greets your dog warmly.
- Give your dog attention. Every so often, give your dog some love. Your positive attention during the party may be all your dog needs to feel less anxious and not exhibit anxious behaviors.
Managing your pet’s anxiety during your next holiday party will make sure everyone—including your pet—has a good time! Remember that a pet insurance policy can help you cover veterinary expenses if your pet needs anti-anxiety medication. PetFirst Pet Insurance is here to help you cover those costs. Get a quote today.
Guest Blogger: JoAnna Pendergrass, DVM