The holidays are a wonderful time -- and a stressful one. We all know the crunch of the holidays, especially if you're hosting an event. We fret over the small things, making sure that one uncle doesn't drink too much (again), hoping that everyone likes your food, and placing every decoration in exactly the right spot. You're not the only one stressed over the holidays: your cat is feeling the stress too.
You might think your cat isn't affected by it all, but think about it from his point of view. For you this is a festive time when you welcome your family and friends into your home; for your cat it's a time when uninvited strangers trample all over his territory, mess up his schedule, and fill the house with strange sounds and objects. It doesn't sound as pleasant anymore, does it?
Then again, your cat might take everything in stride and feel no or few ill effects over the holiday season. Or maybe you're not making that many changes and it's life as usual. How can you tell if your cat is stressed?
Symptoms of cat anxiety
If your cat is anxious or stressed, you should be able to pick up on it. The biggest indicators of anxiety in cats include:
- Loss of appetite
- Urinating outside the litterbox
- Excessive meowing, scratching, or grooming
- Behavior changes like unusual aggression
Your vet should be able to help you determine if stress is to blame for your cat's unusual behavior. If you (or your vet) suspect that your cat is stressed, you can take some steps towards lowering his stress levels. After all, you want this to be an enjoyable holiday season for every family member!
Three ways to reduce holiday stress in cats
Stick to the routine. The best way to keep things normal for your cat is to stick to your regular routine as much as possible. Feed your cat at the same time and the same amount as always. Try to keep to your usual play time. Of course, some things are out of your control (like that sweet, sweet time off you get!) but the more normalcy you keep in your cat's life, the better he'll be able to deal with all the strange new occurrences.
Set aside kitty space. Give your cat someplace to escape to when the hustle and bustle gets too overwhelming. Set aside a room far from the excitement, place a bowl of water and some of your cat's favorite toys in it, and keep the door slightly open so your cat can always have access to it. Inform guests that this is a cat-only clubhouse: all humans should respect your cat's needs and keep out!
Use stress-relieving products. If your cat's anxiety becomes severe, you might want to try some commercial products for relieving cat stress. Most of these products use feline pheromones that have a calming effect on cats. A scratching post and a cat tree are helpful for relieving stress as well since they give cats another instinctive way to escape from the cause of stress: by going up.
Whether you're having a large holiday get-together or just a couple of people over, keep your cat in mind through your preparations. Have a happy and safe holiday season!