Pet Health
jingle bells or warning bells understanding festive anxiety

Jingle Bells or Warning Bells? - Understanding Festive Anxieties for Pets

Written by Steph McCulloch


Unwrap the truth about Christmas anxiety in pets! Learn how holiday festivities can affect your furry friends and discover practical tips to keep them stress-free during the festive season. Navigate the season with confidence, ensuring a joyous and peaceful Christmas for both you and your beloved pets.
a white dog sitting at a table


The festive period is undoubtedly a busy time for most of us. From decorating our homes and meeting up with friends to hosting family gatherings - it’s often one of the most special times of the year for many. Though whilst this is fun for us, our pets might not share the sentiment.

Increased noise, visitors to the home, strange lights and general busyness signify change. And change can quickly translate to stress for vulnerable cats and dogs.

Working directly with Dr Deborah Brown, a veterinary surgeon from Joii, we’ve created the ultimate guide to understanding festive anxieties for pets so you can get back to celebrating the Christmas season with your pet and with as minimal stress as possible.

Which pets are most vulnerable to festive anxiety?

a woman napping with her cat
  • Cats who are very independent and don’t take well to the invasion of their space shared with humans, especially new guests they may not be familiar with.

  • Nervous or highly-strung cats and dogs who are likely to feel stressed and/or traumatised by noise, strangers, travel, kennels and catteries.

  • Senior pets who may have dementia and want a quiet, peaceful place to rest.

  • Pets with painful joints that make it harder to navigate space when lots of people are in the home.

  • New pets, especially rescues or fosters, who aren’t yet familiar with their family and new home.

Signs of stress and anxiety in dogs

a spaniel looking up at a christmas tree

During the holiday season, dogs may exhibit various signs of stress. It's therefore essential for pet owners to be attentive to these cues.

Dr Brown suggests keeping an eye out for common behavioural and physical changes that indicate stress such as:

  • Increased restlessness

  • Excessive barking or panting often with a curled tip of their tongue

  • Looking tense and trembling

  • Pacing back and forth

  • Licking their lips

  • Carrying their tail low

  • Lowered ears

  • Becoming disruptive

  • Withdrawal from self

She also suggests monitoring things like digestive issues, changes in appetite, or excessive grooming. Paying close attention to these signs and providing a calm and familiar environment can help alleviate holiday-induced stress for our canine companions.

Signs of stress and anxiety in cats

a cat hissing by a christmas tree

It’s not just dogs that can get stressed around Christmas, our beloved felines can too. Below is a list of the signs and symptoms to watch out for:

  • Hiding more than usual

  • Passing pee or poop outside of the litter tray

  • Indoor cats hiding away and free-roaming cats not coming home

  • Becoming less tolerant of people or other pets e.g., hissing or growling

  • Meowing more than usual and becoming more vocal

  • Different eating and drinking habits
    Suddenly becoming destructive in the home

Dr Brown adds, “The trouble is, stress can show up as illness as well. Stressed cats can get nasty cystitis or even a blocked bladder. Dogs and cats can become withdrawn or grumpier than usual. With some preparation, we can help prepare our pets for the festive period.”

General measures to combat festive stress and anxiety

a border collie laying down and wearing a jumper covering half of her face

As Christmas fast approaches, it's important to be proactive in mitigating festive stress and anxiety for your furry friends. Implementing general measures can create a harmonious environment, ensuring that your pets navigate through the festivities with comfort and ease.

From maintaining familiar routines to creating designated quiet spaces, these strategies are designed to promote a sense of security and well-being for our cherished companions during joyful yet potentially overwhelming celebrations.

Dr Brown recommends following the advice below:

  • Simply provide your pet with a safe and quiet place to escape the festive fun and games.

  • Give them lots of cuddles and reassurance to help them settle (if they’re looking for this).

  • Consider letting your pet stay in a kennel or cattery over the festive period if there is one they feel secure and happy to go to.

  • If kennels aren’t an option, there are many reputable pet sitter services so your pet can stay in their own home whilst you’re away.

  • If you’re travelling over the holidays, let your pet get used to their basket or the car itself.

  • Consider if it’s worth it if your pet is likely to get stressed. Dr Brown says, “If you can’t ensure your vulnerable fur baby will not suffer because of Christmas or New Year festivities, is it really worth hosting a party? Or making them travel?”.

Anti-stress treatments

a cat being cuddled by his owner

From calming techniques to specialised products, we aim to offer insights into effective interventions designed to soothe and comfort our furry companions amidst the hustle and bustle of the season.

  • A diffuser or plug-in like those by Adaptil, Feliway or Pet Remedy may help your pet feel more secure in their home environment or familiar place. They release calming hormones into the air to help relax cats and dogs. Dr Brown says, “It’s the same hormone nursing mums release to help puppies and kittens feel safe and secure.” She also recommends purchasing a plug-in a few weeks before Christmas as it takes several weeks to reach its full effect.

  • Calming supplements by Yumove, Zylkene and Adaptil can also be great at reducing stress. They contain natural ingredients and act on the same parts of the brain as many prescription medicines, without the associated side effects.

  • Another suggestion from Dr Brown is to invest in a compressive coat which aims to decrease anxiety levels. Thundershirts are also a popular choice for pet owners and act as a calming wrap for your pet to reduce noise-related stress.

  • If you find none of the above suggestions work, it may be worth talking to your vet about prescription medicine. Pets who suffer from extreme anxiety and stress such as a fear of fireworks, for example, may need to see a vet for specialist medicine. Dr Brown adds, “This will be a stronger medicine, but does carry more risk of side effects. Your vet will advise on the best options for your pet.”

Longer-term measures

a festive dog and cat snuggling up together

As mentioned above, if your pet is anxious you may be looking at taking longer-term measures and contacting your vet for support. As well as medication, vets can also prescribe food such as:

  • Hills Prescription C/D Multicare Stress Urinary Care or Royal Canin Expert Calm for cats who get stress-related urinary problems

  • Hills Prescription I/D Stress Digestive Care or Royal Canin Veterinary Calm for dogs who may develop upset tummies with stress

Talking to your vet over anxiety concerns is the best approach and fortunately, the Joii team are on hand 24/7 to answer any concerns. Joii is free for all Waggel members, all you need to do is download the app, sign-up and choose Waggel as your pet insurance provider.


a grey british shorthair cat sitting in silver tinsel

As we navigate the fun yet potentially stressful landscape of holiday celebrations with our pets, it becomes evident that a thoughtful approach is always essential. By recognising signs of stress, implementing general measures to foster a comforting environment, and exploring targeted anti-stress treatments, we can help our pets and ensure their well-being during this festive season.

If your pet is displaying signs of anxiety during the festive period, Joii is on hand (including Christmas Day!) to answer any questions or to help address any problems.

Waggel Pet Insurance

Need more help? You're in luck if you're a Waggel Pet Insurance member. Along with our excellent coverage, we offer access to a 24/7 online vet to answer all your sticky questions, especially if you need grooming assistance.

Not a member? Why not get a quote now and cover your furry friend for a range of illnesses, all while enjoying our amazing perks and rewards.

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