Ah, the sights, the sounds and the smells of the holidays! The real question is…do cats experience holiday stress like we do? For some pets, the holidays are a cornucopia of joy. Dogs often like the hustle and bustle; new people, new things and, best of all, good food stream into the house. But the family cat generally views this as bedlam. She also sees it like a never-ending car ride. Her routine shattered and her peace of mind disturbed, she has precious few, if any, places to which she can escape.
Cat Holiday Stresses
The holidays put a lot of stress on everyone involved, some of it good and some of it bad. Cats have to withstand any number of unusual circumstances that are novel each year because they don’t have the chance to get used to them. Do cats experience stress? We believe they do.
These are just a few of the situations cats have to deal with:
- A constant stream of company. Friendly cats may go enjoy meeting new people that adore them. However, shy or fearful cats will see their once safe haven overrun with strangers.
- Lousy eating habits. One of the side benefits to all that company is the chance to sneak some snacks often…on the counter or table. This usually isn’t healthy. Or in the hectic days that lie ahead, your pet’s feeding schedule may get disorganized. Either way, her nutritional balance may get thrown off track. Certain foods can also cause your kitty to have gastrointestinal upsets such as vomiting or diarrhea.
- Less playtime. If you routine play with your cat and now you don’t, this throws off their schedule and feeling of wellbeing. Depriving him of exercise is stressful. (Think about how you feel about it.)
- Foreign objects. Your cat isn’t going to understand just what the heck this tall green thing, sitting in the middle of the living room, is meant to do. Is it a toy? Food? Furniture to climb? Lacking your aesthetic tastes, your cat doesn’t appreciate seasonal décor. Then there are the objects under it, as well as the other things around the house that mark the holiday season. (And let’s not mention the consternation caused by the singing, swaying Santa Claus or Hanukkah Harry dolls.) Worse even, cats are often discouraged from exploring.
- Frequent scolding. Many cats like being where the action is – which is you struggling to carry bags of gifts or groceries into the house. Cats don’t understand your frequent scolding or cursing, not necessarily at them but at the fact that you had to drop the bag containing three dozen eggs. Your emotions can add to the stress level.
- Frequent trips. Your cat prefers to sit on the the window sill. In fact, she demands it by yowling whenever you take her out to the car. The holidays often mean traveling for pets, which is a HUGE amount of stress for the whole family.
- Kenneling. The other side of traveling during the holidays is putting our cat in a kennel. For cats, being moved from home to a strange place is like a catastrophe, no matter how nice the accommodations.
Easing the Holiday Stress on Your Cat
So what can you do to ease the burden? Three words: routine, routine, routine. Keeping as close as you can to your cat’s normal schedule is the best antidote to holiday stress. Stay consistent with feeding times and amounts, and be on guard against illegal snacks. Maintain his waking, eating and playtime schedules.
Getting your cat used to crowds in the home also helps. Bring your friends or family over to get your cat used to it, and reward him if he behaves correctly. Learn more points of etiquette and safety by seeing the story on guests and pets.
It is important to reserve a room for your pet to retreat to, equipped with his favorite toys, a bowl full of fresh water, some food perhaps, and clothing or blankets with your scent on it. This gives your kitty a safe comfortable place to which he can retreat from the madness. Also, be extra careful around the door if you have an indoor cat only. Make sure he doesn’t sneak out during all the companies comings and goings.
Traveling during the holidays is stressful whether you bring a pet or not. Dogs usually travel better because they are by nature in love with car rides. Cats normally despise it, and who can blame them? Pre-planning is an absolute must, whether by car or by airline.
If you decide to put your pet in a kennel, don’t try to find one at the last minute. Research the facilities in your area and ask around. A kennel should see to your pet’s emotional needs as well as to his physical requirements. Be prepared to ask many questions when you visit a kennel in person.