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Prep your pets for the holidays: a guide to stress-free celebrations

New surroundings, house guests and loud celebrations such as New Year’s Eve, can cause your pets to become extremely anxious.

The holiday season is a time of joy, celebration and togetherness for families, including our pets.

Whether you’re planning to bring your pets along for the festivities or entrusting them to a kennel, cattery or pet sitter while you’re away, it’s crucial to take steps to ensure their well-being and comfort during this potentially stressful time.

Also read: DEMS remind citizens of by-laws pertaining to fireworks

All these uncertainties such as new surroundings, a change in environment and possible house guests, plus upcoming loud events such as

New Year’s Eve, can cause your pets to become extremely anxious, cautions Marycke Ackhurst, a pet behaviour expert.

“If you already know your pet is easily spooked, it’s important to be informed of what you can do to relieve the stress they may feel – even something benign to us, such as rearranging furniture, can stress out an anxious pet.”

Also read: The dangers of fireworks and children

It’s also important to note that dogs’ and cats’ hearing is far sharper and much more sensitive than ours. Even if there is a loud noise quite a fair distance from your home, it could still trigger an anxious reaction.

Dogs
• Nose or lip licking
• Yawning
• Excessive panting
• Reduced appetite
•Tail lowered or tucked
• Ears pinned back
• Cowering
• Trembling or shaking
• Increased vocalisations such as whining, howling and barking
• Excessive attention-seeking

Cats
• Urinating in strange places
• Scratching compulsively
• Hiding away
• Panicked meows or recurrent whining
• Aggression
• Sleeping more
• Decreased appetite

To help your pets during this potentially stressful time, Ackhurst suggests the following:
• Keep familiar noises or sounds playing in the house such as the TV and some background music. The more it seems like a normal situation, the better.
• Create a comfortable, smaller space in the house for your pet to retreat to when they’re feeling anxious. As a distraction from any loud noises, provide them with a tasty chew toy.
• Keep outside noises and bright lights at bay by closing the windows, doors and curtains at home.
• For outdoor cats who come and go as they please, place a litter tray inside and close the doors and the cat flap, so they can’t go outside that evening.
• If you can’t stay at home with your pets, make sure someone else they trust is there to calm and reassure them – the fewer changes during this time, the better.
• If you’re dropping your pet off at the kennel or cattery for the holidays, make sure they have little pieces of home with them such as their bed, favourite chew toy and blankie. This way the change of environment won’t be as dramatic and stressful for them. You could also consider using dog and cat-specific pheromone diffusers, collars and/or sprays to help them feel less anxious.
•Ask your veterinarian about specially formulated foods which help alleviate stress.

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