The holidays are a festive time for us human beings. We celebrate family and life through music, large gatherings, and decorations.
However, it may be a precarious time for your pets who may not be accustomed to the noise. From animals who suffer from a noise phobia to protecting your curious cat from munching on decorations, there are various situations that may draw trouble for your furry friend. The loud noises from fireworks and just the general racket that tends to occur doing New Year’s eve can all stress out or even traumatize a pet.
Here’s how to enjoy a festive holiday while making sure that your pet dog or cat aren’t frightened or become destructive to your personal property or to themselves.
Desensitize your dog and your cat. One of the best things that you can do is to make your pets accustomed to the natural noises, smells, and sights of everyday life. For dogs, gradually introduce them to unfamiliar faces and places. Taking your dog on an adventure to the dog park, enjoying a lake, and simply allowing a dog to experience other humans and dogs will allow them to grow accustomed to external stimuli.
Many dogs tend to become fearful or have a strong reaction to loud noises, especially to sharp noises like fireworks. Depending on your dog’s personality, your dog may run away in horror or lash out by biting. A naturally confident dog will be able to endure fearful experiences much better than a reactive, shy dog. If you have a new puppy, take note that they tend to be more open to new experiences. During a dogs puppy stage, they are more receptive to the outside world. For a calm and confident dog, take them to different places and activities for proper acclimation.
Desensitizing a cat is a bit more difficult than dogs – but it is very possible. Due to the fact that most responsible cat owners have indoor cats that aren’t exposed to a large amount of stimuli like feral cats and due to the skittish nature of many cats, many cat owners are stumped as to how they can desensitize their feline friend. The best approach to desensitizing your cat is to use a stimulus gradient. A stimulus gradient means that you will present outside stimuli from the least fear provoking, and gradually graduate to stimuli that typically causes a strong reaction from your cats.
It is important to consider the inherent skittishness of your cat – the stimulus gradient needs to be slow but progressive. A low fear invoking activity may be using toys that use bells and whistles, or toys that generally make a ruckus. You want them to get used to these noises. Gradually increase the stimuli until your cat is comfortable with the noise of loud fireworks or people talking coming from your TV or a computer. During these times, you want to reinforce positive behavior by introducing treats during these sessions. If your cat runs away, to assume. Gradually close the distance between your cats and the source of noise with the help of a leash or a cat crate. Cats are surprisingly adaptable, and many cats will overcome their fear on a relatively short amount of time. Like dogs, it’s best to acclimate and the desensitize your cat when they are still young.
Make sure that your pets tags are up-to-date. During the holidays there tends to be a lot of foot traffic in and out of your home, potentially creating opportunities for your cat or dog to go on a solo adventure. Make sure that their tags are up-to-date. A wandering pets is a worst case scenario, but you do not want to risk it.
Be weary of alcoholic beverages. Many alcoholic beverages tend to have a strong smell to them either from the alcohol or from a distinct, fruity aroma. This tends to attract many pets. Even though it may seem funny for your pet dog to lap up a cup of wine, the main ingredients in alcohol are toxic to your pets, especially dogs. Many wines are also made from grapes, which can be potentially toxic to dogs.
Consider taking down your Christmas decorations immediately after the holiday. There are many trinkets and Christmas tree decorations that will attract the eye of your cat and dog. Stringy decorations are especially popular with cats, as they sometimes confuse it for a toy. Small statues and figurines are the perfect chew toy for your dog. When decorating a house, make sure that decorations are out of reach from your pets. Lighted candles and wires can be a choking hazard or cause a potentially lethal electric shock – use reinforced wire casing to protect it from you curious dog or place them behind heavy furniture.
Crate your pets. Sometimes the stimuli is too much, or sometimes you may not have the time to desensitize your cat or dog. Be sensitive to them by creating a safe space for them during New Year’s. It may be necessary to place your skittish cat or dog in a relaxed section of the home, using a dog fence to secure a room for your dog or a large crate to place your cat until the end of the night.