Keeping pets happy over busy periods

The holiday periods mean lots of visitors, trips and activities that aren’t your usual routine. While a few pets may enjoy having extra company, for others all the changes can be unsettling.

Pets can get stressed or over-excited around Christmas and other busy holidays, so it’s important to know how to keep them calm and happy.


General tips

  • If you’re going away over the holidays, make sure you have your pet booked into boarding accommodation or a pet sitter arranged to stay with them. You’ll often need to make these arrangements well in advance to make sure your pets have the care they need while you’re away.
  • If you’re taking your pet away with you, make sure you’ve made appropriate travel arrangements. You can read more about safe car travel for pets here.
  • Try to keep to your routine as normal as possible. Familiarity is calming for pets, so feeding them at a similar time to normal and keeping to their exercise routines can be really good for them.
  • Never force your pet to be sociable if they really aren’t feeling it. Give them the option to hide or just sit quietly if they prefer to.
  • Try to keep chocolates and other edible Christmas tree treats towards the top of your tree and out the reach of pets. Avoid small tree decorations at pet level as these could be a choking hazard.

Keeping dogs calm

Dogs can get especially excited around Christmas, with lots of new smells, people and presents sitting temptingly under the tree. There are a few steps you can take to try and keep them as calm as possible:

  • Keep your dog in a room away from the door when you’re expecting visitors. This will stop them getting too excited every time the doorbell goes.
  • Keep to your normal feeding and walking routine as much as possible, but consider slightly longer walks to tire your dog out (if they can manage it).
  • Give your dog plenty of toys to keep them occupied. Brain games and feeding puzzles are especially good to keep keen minds occupied.
  • Unless your dog is very sociable and takes stranger pets in their stride, don’t invite over unfamiliar pets. Your dog won’t appreciate meeting with an unfamiliar dog while having to cope with all the other changes too.
  • Try not to give your dog too much attention. You and your guests may want to spoil your dog, but not only can this be stressful if your dog prefers being out of the limelight, once the holiday period is over and they get less attention they might find it harder to cope alone.
  • Avoid feeding them lots of table scraps. Your dog doesn’t understand it’s “just because it’s Christmas” and will be disappointed not to get scraps at every meal. This type of treating can lead to dogs begging for food in future. It’s also better for their health to stick to their normal food as human treats can lead to obesity or stomach upsets.
  • Provide your dog with a den. This is somewhere quiet they can escape to. Some dogs will need time to be alone if all the visitors and change get too much. It’s important to let them be alone in their den and not disturb them, so they know it is their space.
  • Use a pheromone plug-in to help keep dogs calm. They release a copy of the hormones which were released by their mother when they were pups. They find this very calming and reassuring when the world seems stressful.

Keeping cats calm

The extra activity around Christmas and other busy holidays can make your cat stressed. There are a few things you can do to keep them calm:

  • Introduce Christmas decorations to the house slowly. Cats really don’t like change and are wary of new objects, so rather than changing everything at once take it a bit slower with getting festive.
  • Keep safer ornaments towards the bottom of the tree, as your cat may decide they’re new toys! Anything your cat might harm themselves on should be kept completely out of their reach, as they will easily jump up to swipe at a particularly shiny bauble and bring the whole tree crashing down!
  • If your cat chooses to go somewhere quiet and hide, let them. Some cats prefer to be alone when it’s too busy and need their own space. Offer them a comfy space up high that they can watch the goings-on from.
  • Try to feed them their usual food. Limit the amount of treats you give them so they don’t gain weight.
  • Remember to make time each day to play with your cat. They’ll still need your company and some cats will enjoy playing and expending their energy in a positive way.
  • Use a pheromone plugin to keep cats calm. These release a copy of hormones which your cat would normally put out themselves to show a place is safe, so it helps them keep calm and can make them less likely to get stressed.
  • Keep at least one room in the house free of guests all the time. It might be somewhere your cat normally likes to hide. This way if they don’t like all the new people they can hide there.

Keeping small animals calm

Rabbits, guinea pigs, small indoor pets and birds definitely shouldn’t be forgotten around busy holidays. All the coming and going may unsettle them, so we have a few tips to keep them calm:

  • Although some birds are sociable, having more people around might still make them a bit stressed. Consider moving their cage to a quieter part of the house where they will still get plenty of social time with you and your family but can have some breaks.
  • If you have indoor rabbits, make sure they have places they can hide from all the activity. Don’t let guests keep disturbing them as they prefer quieter environments.
  • Don’t forget about outdoor animals. Rabbits and guinea pigs will still need plenty of exercise out of their hutches. If you’ve moved their hutch indoors over colder months, make sure they are somewhere quiet and that they always have access to an area big enough to exercise in.
  • Mice, rats, hamsters, gerbils and other smaller animals can also find noise unsettling. Move them to a quieter place in the house when you have lots of guests. Rats are especially social animals, so make sure you’re still spending plenty of time with them as well as entertaining your guests.
  • Keep small pets away from TVs and radios. They are more sensitive to certain sounds so these can disturb them.
  • Provide small pets with plenty of things to do to keep them busy. If they are occupied with toys and puzzles they’re less likely to notice all the unfamiliar sounds and smells.
  • Don’t forget – if you’ve arranged to go away over the festive period it’s important that you arrange for somebody to care for your pets.

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