Guests visiting for the holiday can cause stress for pets accustomed to a particular routine. Even if the “guests” are just college students who lived with the pets in question for most of their lives, the disruption can be confusing and scary for pets, particularly for cats and birds. With planning and attentiveness to your pets’ needs, you can keep their stress levels minimal while guests are in town.
The arrival of guests is often particularly traumatic for pets. Think about it from their perspective: You’re a cat, maybe 10-12 pounds total, and you’re accustomed to living with two quiet adults who are away during the days and home in the evenings. Suddenly, two more adults and two small children burst into your home. They’re covered in the smells of strange humans and other animals, and they loudly greet your humans while dropping big, heavy things called “suitcases” all over your territory. Then, the children chase you and pull your tail! Scary, right?
To minimize the stress of guests’ arrival on pets, explain to your guests before they arrive that you are concerned about how your pets will handle the changes in their routine, and that while you’ll be thrilled to see your guests, you’d like them to keep noise levels down and ignore the pets until they are ready to introduce themselves. When the guests do arrive, remind them again that you’re enthusiastic about their visit, but staying calm for your pets’ sake. If children try to chase or pet a frightened animal, ask their parents to gently correct them. Explain that the pets will meet them when they are ready, and that visitors can sometimes scare pets.
The best thing you can do for your pets while guests are staying with you is to keep your routine as normal as possible. If you normally feed your pets at 9:00 AM, don’t make them wait until noon on Thanksgiving just because you have the day off. Don’t forget walks or play sessions while you’re focusing on preparing a big holiday meal. Most of all, don’t forget to give love and affection to your pets just like you normally would. You don’t want your pets considering the guests to be usurpers who’ve stolen your affection!
If children are visiting, establish firm and simple rules for interacting with your pets from the moment they arrive. For example, “No sitting on the pets.” This may seem obvious to an adult, but toddlers have a habit of exploring new things by lying or sitting on them. Even school-aged children may try to ride a large dog! Even the most tolerant pet could tire of this treatment quickly. Discuss with the parents who will enforce the rules and whether, if you see a rule broken, you should call the parents or remind the children of the rules yourself. Protect your pets, but try not to step on visiting parents’ toes and undermine their authority in the process.