Last updated on Jan 17th, 2020 at 07:33 am

The silly season is upon us. Think New Year’s fireworks displays, house parties and hyped-up children around the swimming pool

With the excitement of the festive season, it’s sad, but unfortunately true that in some cases, our pets’ holiday arrangements are left to the last minute.

Will they be coming with you on holiday? If not, have you organised for your dog to stay at the kennel? Or your cat at the cattery? Or, what about a pet sitter to love them and feed them while you’re away?

All these uncertainties such as new surroundings, a change in environment and possible house guests over the holidays, plus upcoming loud events such as New Year’s Eve can cause your pets to become extremely anxious, cautions Marycke Ackhurst, pet behaviour expert from Hill’s Pet Nutrition.

“Plus, 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 as benign to us, such as rearranging of furniture, can stress out an anxious pet.”

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

Ackhurst recommends that pet parents look out for the following signs of anxious behaviour;

  • Hiding away
  • Excessive panting
  • Barking and howling more excessively than usual
  • Inability to settle down
  • Shaking
  • Yawning
  • Attempting to escape their environment
  • Excessive licking or chewing
  • Bowel and bladder accidents

Ackhurst recommends the following to help your pets during this stressful time:

  • Keep familiar noises or sounds playing in the house such as the TV and some background music. The more it seems like an everyday, normal situation, the better.
  • Create a comfortable, smaller, space in the house for your dog or cat 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, rather 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 less 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.
  • Ask your veterinarian about Hill’s Prescription Diet Stress foods, specially formulated to help alleviate anxiety. For severe cases, they may recommend certain medication.

For pet parents who’d like to find out if their dogs or cats are anxious, take the Hill’s pet stress test here

*If you’re anticipating a stressful event, such as fireworks or even holiday kennels, it’s recommended you transition your pet onto a stress-reducing food four weeks beforehand. However, many pet parents have reported positive results as early as a few days. If your pet is a nervous type, you can consider this food for long term feeding.

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