You, Your Pets and the Holidays

The holiday season is upon us.  Chestnuts roasting on an open fire; peace on earth; good will; angels singing; so happy; so relaxed, so idyllic. Right! Frantic last minute shopping, late nights wrapping gifts and mailing cards, standing in lines, working overtime or a second job to cover the added expenses, relatives coming from everywhere because Jack Frost is nipping at their nose (if you live in Florida like I do), the kids are out of school again, and there’s no way Calgon can take you away.  Which sounds more like your reality?  Yes, we love the holidays, but the fact is, even if you enjoy the hustle and bustle, it changes your routine, makes you a bit more tired, and at some level causes you stress. Now we all know what the ultimate effects of stress are on our physical and mental well-being.  Even the medical profession is finally admitting that the effects of everyday coping with stress is the root cause of dis-ease, but what in the heck does any of this have to do with pets?

A great deal actually.  We tend to believe that just because our pets don’t go to work or pay the bills and since they basically stay at home and eat, sleep, and play, that they don’t experience stress.  Not so. Many of the physical symptoms and behavior problems exhibited by pets are often stress responses. Scratching, chewing and licking at their own bodies, skin eruptions, excessive drooling, destructive behaviors, housebreaking problems, excessive barking, and many other symptoms can all be signs of stress in your pets’ life.  Signs that your pet is being effected by stress–Yours.  This is the reason that people who have pets live longer than those who don’t.  Your companion animal is there for you to take on your stress energy and replenish you with his own energy of pure love.  This he does on a daily basis, but during the holidays both your normal stress levels and his are higher. He is now coping with the excitement and changes in routine caused by the holidays which cause him stresses of his own to deal with.

The important things to remember in order to help your friend get through the holidays are the following:

1) If any of the previously mentioned stress responses appear or worsen at this time, don’t panic.  Give yourself and him more quiet time together just sitting and deep breathing and relaxing. It will help you both.  If he’s not coping well, you’re not either (whether you recognize it or not).

2) Try to keep your routines as normal as possible, especially the ones involving him, or get back to normal routines as soon as possible after the holidays are over.

3) It is all too tempting to change his diet with fabulous holiday treats and leftovers.  DON’T! His system may not be able to cope, and the results can really cause stress for you both.

4) Although it is tempting, Christmas is not a good time to introduce a new pet into the household.  The excitement of coming into a new home can be overwhelming enough to an animal, especially a young one, without the added energies of the holiday season.  The long term consequence could be devastating.

5) Company can be wonderful, but if he isn’t used to a lot of people and excitement, give him space and plenty of alone time. Be sure you watch how people are relating to him and make sure he is comfortable emotionally at all times. If he gets defensive or protective, it’s not necessarily his fault.

So this holiday season, enjoy the wonder, the festivities and the love they bring, and take a little extra time to say ,”thank you” to the furry faced angel that is there for you all year round.

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