Reduce your feline’s stress this holiday season

With all the shopping, decorating, baking and party hosting involved in holiday preparation and celebration, the season of joy and good cheer can often become one of stress and anxiety. But we’re not the only ones who get stressed during the holidays — our feline friends do too.

Cats are creatures of habit, so when we deck the halls, alter our daily schedules and throw parties, it disrupts their routine and creates a stressful environment. And just as we show we are finding things stressful in different ways, so do our cats.

Some cats are naturally more nervous and prone to respond to change than others. Some cats may also be at a greater risk of experiencing stress-related problems during the holidays because of environmental factors like the number of animals in your home or other recent changes, such as remodelling projects or the addition of a new baby. Take this short survey to evaluate the stress risk level of your cat.

Felines may react to stress by retreating to a safe space, by exhibiting aggression or by changing their litter tray habits. They may also groom excessively, lose their appetite, play less or spend less time with you and your family.

If your cat exhibits any of these symptoms, it’s best to have your pet examined by a vet to rule out any underlying medical problems. If your vet thinks stress is involved with your kitty’s sudden change in behaviour, there are many steps you can take to help your feline friend cope with the pressures of the holidays.

Tips to help your kitty cope:

Try to maintain a regular routine as much as possible. While changes to your daily schedule are unavoidable during the holidays, it’s important to keep your cat’s feeding and playtime routine consistent. If you normally feed your cat at 8 a.m. and have playtime right after dinner, don’t keep your pet waiting for her morning feeding or wondering why you haven’t picked up that feather wand after the dishes are done.

If you don’t already engage in daily play sessions with your cat, now’s the time to start. A few minutes of playtime a couple of times a day will not only help your kitty relieve stress, but it’ll also strengthen your bond.

Keep your kitty’s litter trays clean as possible. A dirty, smelly litter tray can contribute to your cat’s unhappiness, so clean the tray as required to keep it ready for use

Create a safe space for your cat. If you’ll be throwing a holiday party or hosting out-of-town family for a few days, it’s especially important for your kitty to have a comfortable area where she feels secure in which to retreat. Outfit the room with a bed, food, water and a litter box, as well as some vertical space, such as a cat tree or just simply making sure they have access to tops of cupboards.

Use a Feliway diffuser in your cat’s safe space or in other rooms your cat frequents to support your cat and prevent stress-related behaviours. You can also use a Feliway spray on your cat’s bed or another favourite spot. For best results, begin using Feliway at least 24 hours before you begin making any changes to your cat’s routine or environments — whether you’re bringing in a Christmas tree or having the neighbours over for drinks — and use it continuously during the festive period to help your cat remain relaxed.

During holiday gatherings, instruct your guests that your cat should be left alone unless she ventures out looking for attention. Always let your cat initiate contact with visitors — never force your cat to interact with unfamiliar people. If your cat seems interested in engaging with your company, provide some favourite toys so your can cat play with guests. Explain to any children visiting that they should be gentle when petting your cat, focusing on her head and neck and instruct them not to bother your cat if she’s eating or sleeping.

If you’ll be traveling during the holidays, have a friend, neighbour or experienced pet sitter that your cat is comfortable with come to your home to care for your pet. Be sure your kitty’s caregiver is familiar with your cat’s routine to avoid any additional stressful situations in your absence.

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