Keeping Pets Stress-Free During The Holidays

Happy Holidays! This time of year is filled with joy, but it can also be quite busy. Many of us are balancing multiple tasks, including shopping, decorating, attending events, and traveling, often as we are welcoming visitors into our homes. However, the rush and chaos isn’t just overwhelming for humans. Our beloved pets may also feel anxious during the holiday season. In this article, a local Aurora, CO vet shares helpful advice for helping pets handle seasonal stress.

What Causes Pet Stress During The Holidays?

Our furry friends tend to be creatures of habit, who thrive on routine. Changes in their environment or schedules can be very distressing to animals. Even decorations, such as an inflatable Rudolph or singing Frosty, can upset them. Loud noises and commotions can also be a cause of anxiety.

Pets and Visitors: Achieving Peace Over The Holidays

Guests can also be a source of stress. Of course, pets’ opinions on this matter can vary widely. For instance, you may be beyond thrilled to spend time with your two-year-old niece. Your kitty, however, may be much less enthusiastic about suddenly having a tiny human around.

Pets opinions vary widely on this, of course. Some of our patients already know their owners’ friends and families, and basically see them as extra laps for napping in and extra hands for treats, scratches, and belly rubs. Others prefer that their domains be kept nice and quiet.

If your furry buddy isn’t much for visitors, put them in a quiet spot, such as a back room, when company arrives. Put toys, treats, and bedding there, along with a radio to drown out any noise. Use a baby gate at the door, and stop in for frequent visits: you don’t want your pet to feel isolated.

If your pet is extremely anxious, try calming treats, sprays, or weighted vests. Just check with your vet first.

Can Exercise Really Keep Pets Calm?

Keeping your pet active and entertained will definitely help. Dogs and cats are always calmer when they’re tired. You want your furry buddy to work off its nervous energy in a healthy way. Take time to play with your four-legged pal, and offer lots of toys. (Taking Fido for a long walk can also help you burn off those rich cookies your sister made.)

Holiday Decorating With Pets

Pets that are stressed often soothe themselves by, well, making mischief. That’s for the most part really adorable, but it unfortunately can also get your fuzzy pal into trouble. Many of those beautiful holiday decorations are dangerous to pets. 

Here are a few of the potential hazards:


  • Holly, ivy, mistletoe, and poinsettias, as well as many other seasonal plants.
  • Plastic bags, wrappers, and ties 
  • Any and all small or sharp objects. That list includes ornaments, ornament hooks, tinsel strands, manger pieces, ribbons, and figurines.
  • Ribbons, tinsel, strand lights, electrical cords, tinsel, popcorn strands, tinsel and any other stringy or ropy items.
  • Candles, wax burners, potpourri burners, and fireplaces … anything that creates flames or high temperatures.

GIfts can also be an issue for some pets. You don’t want your pet to eat tape, staples, or wrapping paper that contains harmful chemicals! Consider putting a puppy gate around the tree, especially if you have a puppy or pocket pet. Taste deterrents may also help. (We’ll leave Fluffy’s habit of climbing the tree for another day.) 

Ask your vet for more information.

What Are Some Of The Signs Of Holiday Stress In A Cat?

Kitties may be aloof (and a bit fond of murdering mice and birds), but at the end of the day, they really are very emotional creatures and can get very distressed by changes to their domain or daily napping/pouncing/resting routines.

Some of our feline pals stop using their litter boxes when they’re upset. Others vomit, meow their distress, or lose their appetites. Anxious kitties also often withdraw into their favorite hiding places and refuse to leave. A stressed cat may also sit in the ‘cat loaf’ position, tuck her tail, or flatten her ears. Fluffy may become a cuddle bug, or not want to be touched at all … it depends on the cat.

Can Dogs Show Warning Signs Of Holiday Stress?

It’s important for all dog owners (and even people who don’t have pups of their own) to be able to read canine body language. Fido can’t  tell you if he’s uncomfortable, but he does give off clues about his feelings. 

Besides excessively panting, stressed dogs also drool, pace, or lick themselves obsessively. Other warning signs include whining, barking, howling, growling, trembling, tucking the tail, dilated pupils, showing the whites of the eyes, grumpiness, and withdrawing from you. Your pooch may not eat as much as usual.. Fido may also drink more water than usual, which may lead him to urinate more. Some dogs also engage in destructive behaviors, like digging or chewing.

You don’t want to coddle your canine pal too much, but you can pet him or soothe him. Talking to Fido may also help calm him. 

What Are Signs Of Stress In Other Animals? 

Stress can affect bunnies and other smaller pets as well. Pets that live in their own habitats may not be as affected by environmental changes, but may be frightened by noises. That flashing red nose on the Rudolph doll, or your aunt’s Great Dane, who came to visit. With smaller animals,the signs of stress vary from pet to pet, so ask your veterinarian for more information. 

You may want to put your little buddy’s habitat in a quiet spot over the next few weeks. Make sure you stop and visit often, so they don’t feel forgotten!

Can Calming Products Soothe Stressed Pets?

If you know or suspect that your pet is stressed, ask your vet about using calming products, such as weighted shirts and/or pheromone collars, treats, or sprays. In more severe cases, medication may also be prescribed. Always consult your veterinarian before giving your pet any medication.

You probably don’t want to wait until the day of your family’s arrival  to start  new medications or products. It’s important to know how your pet will react to things, and give them time to adjust. If you think your pet may become very anxious over the next few weeks, contact your Aurora, CO veterinarian now, and get a head start. 

Keep Pets Inside On New Year’s Eve

New Year’s Eve is unfortunately often marked by a high number of lost pet reports. Commotion, music, and fireworks can really unnerve our four-legged friends! Many animals are terrified of those flashes and bangs, and sometimes bolt out of fear. Take extra precautions as we send this year into the rear view mirror. Limit your pup’s outdoor time, especially after dark, and keep Fluffy safe and sound indoors.

In conclusion, while the holidays can be stressful for pets, there are ways to help your animal buddy cope. To start with, be sure that your pet feels loved and safe by including some fun toys in their stocking, providing a safe haven, and taking time to play with and exercise them.

Happy holiday season from everyone at Aspen Commons Animal Hospital, your Aurora, CO veterinary clinic. Please feel free to contact us any time!

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