The holidays can be a tough time for our pets. Unfamiliar faces, travel, and new environments can be a lot to handle. And if they can't come along for the festivities, pets can suffer from separation anxiety and stress missing their favorite humans.

Taking a few small steps to keep your pet calm during the holidays goes a long way. Creating and managing a comfortable environment and routine helps them adjust to changes and cope with all the excitement of the holiday season!

Using the tips in this post you'll be able to help create a holiday routine for your pets and learn how to reduce pet anxiety during the holidays.

1. Create Safe Spaces and Quiet Zones for Pets

The holidays can be scary and stressful for pets because of holiday fireworks, parties, and unfamiliar people and noises. Pets will feel more safe and secure, even in a new environment, if they have somewhere to retreat back to that's cozy and familiar.

  • Set up a safe space for your furry friend by setting up cozy pillows and blankets
  •  Include a bed or crate for them in a quiet closet or room
  •  Have their favorite toys and treats on hand
  •  Consider soothing music in the background

Both you and your guests should respect a pet's space and leave them alone when they want to be. Pets can become scared, uncomfortable, or aggressive by strangers intruding on their space when they're feeling stressed.

You should also make sure that your pet's safe space has water available so that they don't have to leave or socialize when they aren't feeling up to it. 

2. Set Parameters With Holiday Visitors

Keeping your pet safe during celebrations means prepping both them and your guests on how to behave. Even pets that are normally pretty calm can become agitated by unexpected or intrusive visitors, so make sure that you've already set up a safe space before any guests arrive.

  • Introduce new people to your pet slowly
  • Guests should also be told not to disturb your pet if they've retreated to their bed or crate
  • Children should always be monitored carefully

Pet safety during celebrations is all about giving them the tools to self-regulate and keep calm. As long as visitors respect their space, you shouldn't have any issues at your next holiday gathering!

3. Plan Ahead for Holiday Travel

Holiday traveling with pets can also be a major stressor - whether by plane, train, or car. Unfamiliar environments and long travel days can throw your pet out of their comfort zone and cause serious anxiety.

Try the following tips to keep your pet happy and safe when traveling over the holidays:

  • Maintain their regular routines as much as possible, including mealtimes and walks 
  • Consult with your veterinarian about anti-anxiety remedies if your pet gets scared or anxious
  • Pack water bowls, food, and any medications
  • Make sure that all vaccinations are up-to-date in case of any holiday exposure 
  • Make sure that your pet's microchip and tags are updated with your current contact information, just in case 
  • If your pet is too large to fly in the main cabin, consider alternate modes of transport, especially if you have a bulldog, Persian cat, or other pets more susceptible to breathing issues
  • Allow additional travel time with a pet - you may need additional paperwork or security 
  • Book a veterinary appointment to obtain a Domestic or International Pet Travel Certificate, if needed.

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4. Look for Signs of Stress

Despite your best efforts, your pet may still get a bit stressed out during the holidays. Signs of stress in pets can include:

  • Pinned-back ears and tense posture
  • Crouching or hiding 
  • Dilated pupils or big eyes
  • Growling or aggression
  • Destructive or repetitive behavior

5. Try Additional Calming Techniques

If your pet does get agitated, there are some treatments you can try to help them relax. Some typical at-home pet anxiety remedies you can try with your furry friend include:

For Dogs:

  • Calming techniques like music and white noise
  • Anti-anxiety treats
  • Calming collars or vests
  • Quiet, safe spaces
  • Veterinary-approved supplements and prescription medication

For Cats:

  • Anti-anxiety treats
  • Aromatherapy
  • Calming collars or vests 
  • Quiet, safe spaces and soothing music
  • Veterinary-approved supplements and even prescription medication

Helping your pet cope with separation anxiety by keeping them stimulated while you're away, leaving favorite toys, and creating comfortable spaces.

Your veterinarian may recommend anti-anxiety medications or regular behavioral training for holidays if your pet is having trouble coping or suffering from severe stress.

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Keeping your pet happy, calm, and entertained during the holidays isn't always the easiest task. Your pets appreciate any efforts to pet-proof homes with pet-friendly holiday decor, manage stressful visitors or parties, make travel more comfortable, and reduce anxiety where possible.

Hats off to all pet parents this holiday season for looking out for your furry friends! If you have any concerns about your pet's behavior, schedule a behavioral exam to learn how to best handle the holidays with them this year.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I tell if my pet is stressed during the holidays? 

Signs of stress and anxiety in pets can include hiding, pinned-back ears, tense posture or an arched back (in cats), dilated pupils and big eyes, destructive behavior, repetitive behavior, or growling or other aggressive behaviors.

Is it safe to travel with my pet during the holidays? 

It's generally safe to travel with pets during the holidays. If you are flying and your pet cannot accompany you in the main cabin, ask the airline about their cargo hold and make sure they take all necessary measures to ensure pet safety before, during, and after the flight. If in doubt, consider other alternatives modes of transport.

Can changing my pet’s diet help with holiday stress? 

Some pets may benefit from over-the-counter calming supplements during the holidays. Make sure to consult your veterinarian before making any changes to your pet's diet.