Tips for Pet Parents for Dealing With Holiday Stress

Hanie Elfenbein, DVM
Written by:
Published: November 28, 2018
Tips for Pet Parents for Dealing With Holiday Stress

The holidays have arrived, and that means there will be plenty of parties, dinners, gift exchanges and get-togethers. Whether you will be hosting one of these events, or packing up the family and pets to visit family and friends, know before you go how you are going to keep everyone calm and comfortable, so that everyone has a good time.

Managing Holiday Stress With Pets and Visitors

If you are expecting visitors for the holidays, you will want to do a little preparation before the guests arrive. Many of us consider our pets to be members of the family, and we enjoy having them with us as we celebrate good times.

But when our pets are not used to having more than a few people around, they can get overly excited, and things can stop being fun. If your dog is jumping, begging for food or barking, it can lead to some embarrassing situations, and can even frighten guests who are not accustomed to having animals around.

In the weeks before the event, take some time to work on your pet’s manners and to reinforce dog obedience training. You might try having small gatherings with some pet-friendly people who can help reinforce your pet’s manners, so that when the bigger party night comes, your pet will already be prepared.

Setting Up a Pet-Friendly Room

If, on the other hand, you know that your pup will not be able to hold back his exuberance, or your cat is notorious for jumping on counters and getting into food dishes, or you are afraid a guest will let them outside, set aside a safe room where pets can stay for the duration of the event.

Make the space comfortable with a comfy, large dog bed or cat bed, water, dog toys or cat toys, and maybe some cat treats or dog treats. Close this area off to the guests so that you can be sure that your pet and your guests are safe. Remember to either tell your guests that your pet should be left alone or tape a sign to the door saying "do not open" so that people know to keep out. The last thing you want is for a very excited pet to dash through the house, and possibly out the door.

Traveling With Your Pet

Leaving the familiarity of home can cause anxiety in people and animals. If you are traveling by car, be sure to bring along some of your pet’s favorite toys, the pet’s blanket or bed, and his regular dog food or cat food. If your dog is used to sleeping in a crate, bring it along so he can sleep in his familiar space.

Keep pets in a travel-safe crate so that the animal is not able to move freely throughout the car. This covers a few bases. It prevents them from getting underfoot or on your lap while you are driving—an obvious hazard; it prevents them from being thrown from the car should an accident occur; and it prevents them from getting free/running away at rest stops or after minor accidents. If you cannot fit a crate into your car, you can use a dog seat belt, dog car seat, pet carrier or car barrier to keep your pet safe.

If your pet will be flying with you, keeping them in a carrier is required. Make sure your pet is comfortable in that space before bringing them on a plane. Bring extra dog potty pads in case your pet has an accident.

Even though your pet won’t have the opportunity to urinate, do NOT restrict their water before a flight. Dehydration can make pets very sick, not to mention uncomfortable and irritable when they arrive at your destination.

On that note, make sure your pet is wearing identification at all times, and pack an emergency cat first aid or dog first aid kit in case of an emergency. Don’t forget to take frequent breaks to allow for rest and relief.

Check Out Boarding Facilities

Before choosing a boarding facility for your pet, take a quick tour of the facility to check out the accommodations. You will want to be sure that it is clean and well kept, and that there is ample space given for the animals to exercise daily.

Have your questions ready before you go. Things you may want to know are: how many animals are kept together in one space; can you bring your pet’s food so that his digestive system will not be upset by an abrupt change in food; will you be able to bring along toys and other familiar comfort objects from home?

If you do not feel comfortable with a boarding facility, whether for your pet’s emotional comfort or because of health concerns, and you do not have the option of taking your pet along with you, give yourself plenty of time to ask around the neighborhood for someone to pet sit in your home or theirs.

Find Reliable Pet Sitters

You can also do some research on local professional pet sitters that will come to your home to check in and care for your pet, or will take your pet into their home. Your veterinarian may be a good source for recommendations for in-home pet sitters.

Whether your pet goes somewhere or someone comes to stay in your home, that person needs as much information as you can provide about your pet’s daily needs. It is always helpful to write out instructions for both the daily routine and situations that may occur (such as a pet who doesn’t want to eat or how to use the laundry machine if your pet has an accident).

Provide your number, vet numbers, emergency vet numbers and backup phone numbers in case you are unreachable. The better prepared you are, the less holiday stress there will be for you and your pet, and the better your celebrations will be.

Stick With the Usual Routine

One of the best things you can do throughout it all is to stick to a familiar schedule. This means taking walks at the same time that you always do, and feeding at the same time as usual. It might help to set an alarm or reminder on your phone to remind you of daily pet tasks (like giving medications) during hectic holidays. Remember that it is important to take time to play with your pets and show affection, so that they aren’t thrown off-balance by all of the activity and distractions.

Image via

Help us make PetMD better

Was this article helpful?

Related Articles

Holiday Pet Safety Hazard: Tinsel
Holiday Pet Safety Hazard: Tinsel
Connect with a Vet

Subscribe to PetMD's Newsletter

Get practical pet health tips, articles, and insights from our veterinary community delivered weekly to your inbox.