It’s holiday season: what to do with the family pet?

For many people, the period before going away on holiday can be very stressful, but for pets, the holiday itself can be a time of stress. Animals love routines, and holidays means a complete change in their daily activities. A visit to a kennel or cattery means a complete new temporary home, with new people, animals and feeding routines, as well as new smells and sounds. Even if a house sitter or a neighbour is looking after the pet in their own home, there’s still a significant difference from “normal”.

Reducing holiday stress for pets

If your pet has never stayed at a kennel/cattery before, consider trial stays for short periods; this will accustomise your pet to the new environment and help them to realise that you are coming back.

Familiarise your cat with their basket – leave it out at home, consider putting some treats inside, making it a normal part of the household If the kennels allow it, take your pet’s bed with them. You can buy pet beds that double up as carriers, and these can be ideal for this type of situation. They can be like portable pet bedrooms – visit the Petzpodz website to find out more about the example that’s shown on the video clip above.

Take some of your pets favourite toys with them and ask the kennels to rotate them, giving different toys at different times.

Consider providing a worn item of your clothing to reassure your pet with familiar scents If your pet is a fussy eater, talk to the kennel about perhaps supplying them with their usual food supply rather than something different. Deliberately “scenting” the pet carrier can help provide reassurance for cats. To do this, gently rub their face and cheeks with a soft cloth or glove at home when they are relaxed then rub the corners in the kennel or pet carrier with this glove/cloth – at cat face height. This puts the scent from the cat’s facial glands around the carrier.

If you have a nervous pet, pheromones can be helpful – there is a plug in diffuser for cats (Feliway) and there are also collars for dogs. Pheromones make animals feel relaxed and secure. For some animals, some type of calming medication may even be needed: talk to your vet about this if you feel it may be needed.

Reasons for holiday stress in pets

  • Huge change in daily routine
  • New places, people, animals, sounds, smells
  • Often a new daily diet
  • Complete absence of usual walks etc

Preventing holiday stress in pets

  • Arrange short visits to kennel/cattery before holidays
  • Provide bedding / food / toys to go into kennel with pet
  • Provide your own clothing to accompany pet
  • Kennel pets with animal friends
  • Consider pheromones and/or calming medication

Choosing a kennel/cattery

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Please note that I am unable to answer veterinary questions in comments. If you have questions or concerns about your pet's health it is always better to contact your vet.

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