I don’t know about you, but when winter comes all I want to do is be at home, drinking a bucket-sized mug of tea, cosy and warm under a blanket with my pets all around me.
Despite enjoying being out on the town, seeing friends and family, going for meals and sipping cocktails in a fancy bar, nothing compares to snuggling up with my animals. At the moment I’m suffering with some sort of horrible cold virus which has left me feeling truly awful, but the minute I get home, I’m on that sofa and getting all the love and cuddles from my favourites.
So, with winter affecting how a lot of us feel, how much we want to venture outside, the addition of Christmas decorations and lights, plus visitors a-plenty during the festive season, this can mean we see a difference in how our pets behave as they take on board the changes in not only the weather (and, in turn, the time they spend outdoors) but also the change in their living environment and safe space as it changes slightly for the few weeks of December. (Don’t get me started on the endless fireworks that seem to come between Bonfire Night and New Years Eve too, grrrr!)
If you’ve noticed your furry family member has changed slightly, being more lethargic, grumpy or restless, there’s a few steps you can take to try and lessen the impact this time of year can have on them…
We all know animals love their routines – they know exactly when dinner time is or when we’ll be home from work (even when the clocks change, somehow), they know when they’re due a walk, and they can be easily thrown off-kilter when what they’re used to suddenly changes. Over the festive season, with more people coming and going from your home, you having more nights out with friends and family, plus being at home more as we get a little bonus time off work, our pets can be left wondering what on earth is going on. Where possible, stick to your normal routine as much as possible, and when there are inevitable and unavoidable changes, give your pet a little more attention than usual, playing with them, perhaps giving them a treat, and giving them that reassurance that everything is ok. It acts as a distraction but also shows them that you are still there for them and love them, a comfort they will definitely need.
Brighten Their Day
We’ve talked about brightening their day figuratively with treats and attention, but you also need to think about this in a more literal sense. As the days get shorter and the night draws in, the additional darkness can leave some animals feeling distressed. Invest in a lighting timer if you’re not going to be home before nightfall and, if you’re going out for the night, leave a light on for them in the house so that they’re not plunged into darkness as soon as the sun goes down. It’s also worth considering leaving the radio on for them if you’re going to be out for a while, to give them some background noise and stop them feeling like they’re alone – believe it or not, channels with classical music with their relaxing tones work well for keeping animals calm, and a bit of culture never did anyone any harm!
Give Them Space
At this time of year, our homes can be full of people and with that comes noise, hustle and bustle. If you’re going to be having visitors round this holiday season, see if you can allocate a quiet space for your pet so that they can leave the room and escape the excitement if they need to. Create them a little space where they can take a nap, shutting any doors or internal bi-folds you have, or allowing them to make use of your bedroom if they want to get some shut eye or just escape all the people wanting to give them a cuddle!
A great way to distract your pet from anything that is worrying them or could cause them to feel overwhelmed is to give them something else to focus on in the form of a new toy or some treats. Poppy’s favourite treats are vegetables (weirdo that she is) and a big part of us overcoming her anxieties since we got her is by not only offering reassurance, love and safety, but by intervening when she’s got herself in a tizzy and giving her something else to focus on – usually in the form of a carrot (one of her favourites!) If you’re being mindful of your pets waistline and want to opt for healthy treats instead of the shop-bought more ‘junk’ type options, do your research first, as quite a lot of fruit and vegetables are off-limits due to being toxic for animals (I wrote about safe fruit and vegetables for your dog here).
Avoid Too Much Travel
Visiting friends and family is always a big part of the festive season and whilst this might be fun for us, going on journeys isn’t always fun for our furry friends. Be mindful of your pets feelings about travel and, if they don’t like it, see if there’s some way you can avoid taking them with you, or can get people to visit you instead. You can also get great calming and relaxation aids for animals such as Feliway and Adaptil, or you can buy DVD’s that have music scientifically and specifically created for animals to keep them calm (I highly recommend these, it’s amazing how well they work!)
With so much going on and so many plans at this time of year, worrying about keeping your pet happy can be an additional worry that you could really do without. Hopefully some of these little tips will help and, living with a brain-damaged dog who struggles with anxiety, my heart goes out to anyone who is dealing with an animal that is susceptible to stress.
I can’t wait to spend Christmas Day with my animals, they’ll be getting a small, animal-friendly version of our festive dinner on the day – they are, after all, family members too.
Are you spending your Christmas period with a pet? Tell me about them, I always love hearing about people’s pets!
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