With the holidays just a few short weeks away, excitement fills the air with anticipation... or maybe not, especially for the cats in our lives. The hustle and bustle of the holiday season can bring extra stress to our kitties. In addition to the risk of overstimulation from all the festivities, there's also a higher chance for them to be neglected by their busy hoomans.
With all the chaos and crowds, the holiday frenzy can surely leave our four-legged friends frantic. Most cats, if not all, are not fond of loud noises and being around too many people. They can get aggressive or become more elusive and detached when exposed to these stress triggers. Luckily, with a bit of understanding and careful planning, you and your feline friend can still both have a happy holiday season.
Understanding Cats and their Holiday Stress
While stress is an inevitable part of life, too much of it can have serious physical and behavioral effects—and our cats are no exception. Stress can cause negative physical and mental effects on cats and can even affect their relationships with other pets and humans in the household. Some of these may include aggression, depression, withdrawal, and litter box avoidance, among many others.
Just like us humans, cats exhibit stress in different ways. However, many of these signs can also be linked to various health conditions, so it can be a bit tricky to figure things out. Here are some of the most common signs of a stressed cat:
- Runny nose and eyes
- Eating less than usual
- Sleeping more than usual
- Litter box avoidance
- Excessive scratching
- Excessive meowing
- Withdrawal from the family
- Excessive grooming
If your cat if perfectly fine then shows these signs of stress the moment the holiday season kicks in, then your cat is probably just stressed out from all the holiday happenings in your household.
As you should know by now, cats are huge sticklers for routines. They do not deal well with change. Even a subtle change in their environment such a Christmas décor or a piece of furniture out of place can stress them out. With the holidays coming right up, it is crucial to prepare your cat as early as now to prevent having bigger problems down the line. You can help alleviate your cat’s stress levels by identifying their most common holiday stressors and doing a workaround or two. Here are some of them:
Holiday Stressor 1: Crowds and loud noises
Cats are highly sensitive to noise. Crowds and chaos can stress out your cat, so make sure to provide a safe and comfortable place for your cat to retreat into. However, if you want your feline friend to be with you as you celebrate, you’ll want to prepare your cat before your big celebrations. Try socializing your cat with other people until it gets used to being around several people at once. This way, once your big parties come up, your cat won’t get too overwhelmed with all that’s happening around.
Holiday Stressor 2: Playing dress up
There’s no doubt that cats look irresistibly cute when they are all dressed up in adorable sweaters and other holiday costumes. Unfortunately, your cat doesn’t think of it the same way. Most cats, if not all, despise wearing any type of clothing and will throw a fit, especially if you forcibly make them wear one. If your cat reacts negatively when being dressed up, then just stop. You’ll just create unnecessary stress if you force your cats to do something they don’t like.
Holiday Stressor 3: Traveling
Just like us humans, leaving the familiarity and comforts of home can also cause stress and anxiety in cats. If you are traveling with your cat this holiday season, be sure to bring along some of your pet’s prized possessions with you. It could be your cat’s blanket or perhaps his or her favorite toy—basically anything that would remind them of home. In addition, make sure to bring along your cat’s litter box and usual food to prevent your cat from throwing a fit while you’re on vacation. Keep in mind that when traveling with your cat, it’s crucial to stick to your pet’s regular routine, even though you’re away from home, to prevent unnecessary stress and drama.
Holiday Stressor 4: Holiday decorations
As mentioned earlier, cats are not too fond of change. Any new addition to your home such as holiday decors can irk some grumpy cats. While some cats find all things holly and jolly stressful, there are other cats that find holiday decorations irresistible. Can anyone actually put and keep up a Christmas tree, or keep the bulbs and decorations on it? (Because I cannot; my cats find this irresistible!).
Back to what I was saying...while these decorations make the best toys (in your cat’s mind), more often than not, these so-called “toys” can result in hazardous behavior and outcomes. Decorations that move, for example, can unleash the natural hunting instinct of cats, causing them to chew and pounce on anything that piques their curiosity. When putting up Christmas decorations, make sure to know their potential dangers and toxicities for your cats to prevent unexpected accidents. If your cat hates decorations, then just compromise and try to keep your decor to a minimum—or simply place them where they can’t be reached. If you’re looking for some ideas to keep your decor safe from rambunctious kitties, check out these epic ideas.
Different Ways to Keep Your Cat Calm During the Holidays
Create a safe space for your cat.
It is important to ensure that your cat has a comfortable and secure space they can escape into when things get too stressful for them at home. This could be under your bed or a quiet corner in your home away from the crowds. Try to make this as comfortable as possible by placing your cat’s favorite blanket or toy, as well as a water bowl or two.
Stick to your cat’s usual routine.
As the holiday season comes close, it’s so easy to get caught up with so much holiday-related tasks and overlook your cat’s needs. One of the best things that you can do for your cat this season is to stick to your pet’s regular schedule. This way, your cat won’t feel neglected and will still feel a sense of normalcy despite all the festivities and distractions.
Never force social interactions.
Having guests over the holidays is inevitable, so it’s important to set some boundaries when it comes to socializing with your cat. Always let your cat decide whether they want to interact with your guests or not. Never force interactions as your cat may react negatively and result in an unintended scratch or two.
Give your cat extra TLC.
Spending extra time with your cat even for just a couple of minutes in between wrapping presents and doing your shopping lists can help lower your cat’s stress. Smothering your cat with extra attention won’t just make your cat feel less stressed, but feel more connected with you.
With the holiday season upon us, it’s so easy to get tied up in the excitement of preparing for parties, decorating the house, and shopping for gifts. However, as a cat owner, you need to remember that this season in particular can be a very stressful time for your kitty. Minimizing their stress isn’t that difficult as long as you consider things from their standpoint. By anticipating your cat’s potential stressors and preparing ahead of time, you and your cat can surely both have a Merry Christmas.