Why Is My Pet Acting Weird Around the Holidays?

Dog and cat holiday decorations.

The holidays are filled with a festive blend of food, family—and stress! And even though our pets aren’t the ones shopping, baking, and hosting holiday parties, they can experience anxiety during the holiday season just as we can. At Harpeth Hills Animal Hospital, we love helping you keep your pets happy and healthy year-round with wellness programs that include behavioral counseling, and we’re here to help you understand why your pet might be acting weird during and after the holidays.

Tis the Season for Strange Pet Behavior

In addition to being aware of holiday pet safety measures, it’s also important to understand why your pet acts weird during the holidays. From your pet’s perspective, a lot of changes have taken place in a short period of time, such as: 

  • There are new decorations, lights, and sounds, and there’s a tree in the house!
  • The furniture has been rearranged.
  • There are new people, new voices, loud children, and toys that make noise.
  • Routines have been completely disrupted.
  • They’re getting less exercise than usual.
  • They’re spending more time alone.
  • They’re over-stimulated.
  • They might be losing sleep.

Adapting to these changes can be very stressful for our pets, but with a little awareness and preplanning, you can make the holidays more manageable for the furry members of your household. 

Soothing Holiday Stress

If your cat or dog is acting fearful, becoming withdrawn, or even being aggressive, these are signs that he is feeling anxious or stressed. 

Try these tips from our experts

  • To the best of your ability, stick to your pet’s normal routine.
  • Give your pet a comfortable, quiet space to retreat to when your house gets noisy or busy, and make sure he has a favorite toy or blanket.  
  • Give him extra love and pets when you can.
  • If your cat or dog will be joining the festivities, tell guests (especially children) how to safely interact with your pet.
  • Make sure your pet gets plenty of exercise and eats a healthy diet. 
  • Try feline or dog pheromone diffusers.

Separation Anxiety

If your pet has become destructive, is soiling inside the home, or vocalizing more than usual during and after the holidays, these can be signs of separation anxiety, which can occur if you’ve been traveling more than usual, or you’ve had to board your pets. Both dogs and cats can experience separation anxiety. Mental and physical stimulation is helpful for many behavioral problems, but if separation anxiety becomes an ongoing issue, it’s best to make an appointment with your pet’s doctor.

When to Call Us

Severe stress can lead to other illnesses, so if your pet’s strange behavior lingers after the holidays or becomes concerning—such as if he’s no longer eating or using the litter box—it’s best to contact us