by A. Grano on December 6th, 2011 at 7:00 am
Just as we get frazzled around the holidays, our pets also can become stressed–which can often lead to behavior problems. Sometimes our pets become upset as a result of sensing our own discomfort, or due to disruptions in their routine and environment.
It is important to manage these emotions and subsequent behaviors in our pets, as they can lead to greater health problems if left untreated. While many pets get anxious – the good news is that a lot can be done to make them feel more at ease.
- Both cats and dogs can become very anxious and distressed with visitors in the house or when left in unfamiliar environments (such as a kennel or cattery). If your pet becomes distressed, try not to fuss too much, as this may be interpreted as attention – perhaps triggering further anxiety in the future. Rather, stay calm and provide your pet with the necessary tools to cope. This may include a ‘den’ for them (empty cupboard with a blanket and favorite toys) as dogs will try to find a place where there is one opening – where the perceived ‘danger’ can be watched. Cats will usually seek out shelter under a bed or behind a cupboard. Best to leave them be, and not bother them.
- Keep your animal physically active. Regular exercise helps burn up stress.
- Feed your pet a healthy diet. Different breeds and ages will require different nutritional needs, but all dogs and cats can benefit from a high-quality diet.
- Remember that your pet can pick up on your stress levels – make an effort to calm down and relax and in turn, your pet will also be less anxious.
- If your pet displays signs of separation anxiety – whether for a short period at home or in a boarding center—make a few preparations beforehand. Before you leave to go out, intentionally reduce your level of interaction with your pet by ignoring it or provide some kind distraction (new toy, long-lasting treat or leave the radio or television on). If you’ll be away for an extended period of time, hire a pet sitter or ask a neighbor or friend to check on your pet during the day.
- If boarding your pet, be sure to pack along a comforting toy or reminder of home. Visit the kennel or cattery prior to leaving your pet to evaluate the conditions and see if it’s a good fit as far as attention, sleeping quarters, etc. goes.
- When visiting a new home, pets may also become stressed. Let your pet investigate the surroundings under your supervision so he can become familiar with them. Give him some treats and play with him in the new home so he will associate something positive with the experience.
- Consult an animal behaviorist if necessary, who can help train your pet.
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