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Behavior

Keeping Pets Calm During Holidays and Travel

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Anxiety is one of the most common issues we face with ourselves and our pets at any time of year, but nerves seem to become even more strained during the holidays.

These are some helpful tips for keeping pets calm and people safe during the busiest time of the year.


Remember that calming pets is not a “one size fits all”. Some animals will react very favorably to certain remedies, while others will react poorly.

Patience is your strongest weapon as pets adjust to, and learn to trust, their new environment. Never give up on your pets – we have yet to see a case that can’t be resolved with some ingenuity and hard work.

Tip 1: Let Them Leave

Giving your pets an option to leave a crowded room is one of the most important things you can do. It may be beneficial to even keep pets separated and in a quiet room until everyone has left (which has the added benefit of making sure no one accidentally lets them escape during a party. The safety of your pets and guests should be a top concern.

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Tip 2: Don’t Dress Them Up

We love taking pics of our pets dressed in holiday garb. But, unless you’ve been dressing your pets up all of their lives, that’s as far as it should go.

Some pets don’t mind wearing a coat or jacket, but it can be very stressful to those who are not accustomed to it year round.

Take your photos, then take it off. It’s a bad idea to present new stimuli (costumes) to pets who already have new stimuli (trees, decorations, holiday visitors) piling up around them.

Most animals prefer not to be dressed up. However, if you do feel the need to dress your pet, use something like a simple bow tie or collar to bring out the best in your pet.

Speciality wraps (like the Thundershirt Dog Jacket for Anxiety and the American Kennel Club Calm Anti-Anxiety and Stress Relief Coat for Dogs) can even help decrease stress.

In most cases, you should avoid using anything that might stress them or present a choking hazard (bells, jingle balls, tinsel, hanging decor).  

Tip 3: Use Natural Pheromones

The great thing about pheromone-based science is that it is scientifically proven. The next best thing is that it works on a level we can’t detect.  Before any party, place a diffuser in your home (we recommend the Feliway Plug-In Diffuser for cats or Adaptil, D.A.P (Dog Appeasing Pheromone) for dogs). They are odor free, so you don’t have to worry about strange smells*.

*Note: We have tried out many of the other natural calming collars for pets, but found them to be far too strong in terms of smell. Be sure you know what to try before you buy.

Tip 4: Use Natural Calmants

Exercise great caution in using aromatherapy with pets. Use only the highest quality of essential oils (you won’t find those at Walmart or Bath & Body shops).

The only ones we’ve tried that we feel good about recommending is Doterra (which we use), Young Living, and Native American Nutritionals.

Most oils are highly toxic to birds, cats (please read Using Essential Oils and Natural Remedies on Cats), and reptiles so avoid use around these species until you know what you’re doing (and that includes understanding the toxicity levels).

Cautions aside, a drop each of Roman Chamomile and Lavender in the diffuser will go a long ways towards keeping pets calm. Be sure you only use in a room where your pets can leave if they choose. Stick with hydrosols if you’re unsure about oils.

Flower hydrosols are often one of the best (and safest) ways to calm pets. Stay with formulas that are proven to work, such as Earth Heart Canine Calm Natural Remedy Mist or Rescue Remedy. These are very safe for dogs and cats.

Tip 5: Use Natural Supplements

One of our favorite ways to calm pets is with LICKS Liquid Vitamins Zen Treat . They can lick the formula from the package and you’ll see immediate results.

There are two formulas – one for dogs, one for cats. Since it’s all-natural and made/sourced in the US, it’s one of the things we love to recommend!

Tip 6: Avoid Prescription Drugs 

Remember, prescriptions are only for use when all other methods have failed. Even then, you do not want to introduce a medication to your pet only when stressors are high.

Be sure you understand how your pets will react to a particular medication prior to giving it to your pet during the holiday party or before you get on the road.

Some pets can have very dramatic reactions that may produce the exact opposite of what you want (including aggression, increased stress with negative behaviors, or breathing issues).

Try the natural remedies mentioned above before asking your veterinarian about how to medically manage their condition. 

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Tip 6: Socialize Your Pets

The most valuable thing you can do is socialize your pets to other people, places and things. This will result in a balanced dog and cat. Be sure your vaccinations are up to date before taking your pets out, but always try to expose them to new things. A socialized dog is a balanced dog.

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