Heading home the holidays is always something to look forward to when winter rolls around. In the chaos of the holiday season, dogs and cats can wind up finding the holidays particularly stressful. Here are a few tips to help your furry friends avoid stress during the holiday season.The holidays are fun for people, but they can be hard on your pets. Here's how to make sure your furry friends have the best holiday season possible.
Taking Your Canine or Feline Family Along
The first big choice is whether to bring your pets along or leave them at home. While the decision depends a lot on your particular pets, there are a few general trends. Cats tend to handle solitude pretty well 1-3 days, but if you can manage that and get a sitter in to check on them daily or, if you can afford it, stay over.
Dogs present a tougher choice. While they tend to want to stick to a routine, they're liable to get lonely. On top of that, leaving the dog behind can be expensive. Overnight sitters can run anywhere from $50 to $100 a day. Even if you don't hire someone for overnight, dogs need to be walked several times a day and fed and played with, whereas cats can generally get by on one visit per day.
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How to Prepare and Maintain a Pet-Safe Holiday Environment
Some careful and calm advance planning can ensure holiday pet safety. Visitors, flashing lights, strange smells, and guests constantly arriving and departing can be difficult for a pet to understand.
To help your pet cope, think about:
Putting decorations and presents out of the pet’s reach, which decreases the risk of chew hazards.
Give your pet a place to retreat to, away from the madness. A crate is ideal — the dog can remove themselves to a safe place when the festivities ramp up. But don’t go overboard decorating the crate. This is the dog’s space, not yours.
Think about how your pet copes with guests. If necessary, set a room aside for the dog or cat to hunker down until the festivities are over.
Purchase Appropriate Supplies
Stock up on all the items your dog is going to need. With a huge holiday to-do list, it’s easy to forget your dog has a shopping list too. Purchase food and treats. You want to be able to reward good behavior. Also look for chews and food-dispensing toys to keep your dog occupied when your attention is elsewhere.Consider buying your dog something special like a new toy or some bully sticks. It’s fun to let them participate in holiday gift-giving, but it will also help them form positive associations with the hustle and bustle of the holidays.
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Taking Your Pet On Your Travels
With more hotels and airlines allowing pets to travel with you, many pet parents opt to take their pets with them on holiday.
If you are driving, a cat or a small dog should be in a comfortable carrier in the backseat. Don’t travel with your dog hanging out the window or in the back of your pickup truck. Take familiar bedding and toys. For larger dogs, a sling that fits over the headrests on the front seat can keep your dog in the back, so it doesn't start exploring the armrests while you're driving. You can also get a harness for a dog and hook it to the seat belt. Whatever you do, don't let dogs sit right by the driver’s feet.
Taking your pet with you allows you to celebrate the holidays with your favorite furry pal and keep a close eye on them. On the other hand, flying can be very stressful for pets. Many airlines won’t allow certain pets like brachycephalic dog breeds (English Bulldogs, Boston Terriers, Boxers, etc.) onboard due to their heightened health risk while flying. Traveling with your pet will require advanced planning and thorough research on pet regulations and requirements. If you plan on traveling with your pet, see our piece on tips and tricks for flying and road travel here.
No matter your holiday plans, keep your pet up to date with veterinary checkups and vaccinations by seeing your veterinarian regularly. Accidents do happen, whether you’re watching your pet or having someone else watch them.
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*We hope to give you better ideas for your pet, but this information is not meant to be a substitute for veterinary care. Always follow the instructions provided by your veterinarian. If your pet feels bad, please take it to the veterinarian in time.