Expecting guests this holiday season? Here’s how to ensure your cat doesn’t get too stressed about the strangers in his home.
It’s no secret that cats are creatures of habit. They rely on their daily routines to feel comfortable and secure. But the festive season bring changes to the household that may be unsettling to your feline friend – including a parade of dinner and house guests. Read on for some simple tips to help your kitty feel less stressed when holiday “strangers” invade her home.
Your cat’s point of view
Try looking at the holiday season from your cat’s perspective. First of all, a large green object suddenly appears in the living room, bedecked with shiny ornaments and lights. Then the house is filled with the smells of baking and greenery, and the crinkle of wrapping paper. It’s true that most cats greet these particular changes with more curiosity than fear – who hasn’t had to rescue tree ornaments from a playful kitty, or lift him out of a packing box?
It’s when the guests start arriving that your cat may decide the holidays aren’t so fun after all. These people may be strangers to your cat. They make loud noises and smell different. They sit in her favorite chair and take up space on the sofa. They talk to her in weird baby voices — and worse yet, try to pick her up and pet her. Is it any wonder she ends up hiding under the bed or in a closet?
How your cat reacts to company does, of course, depend a lot on her personality. Some cats love being the center of attention (see below), while others flee as soon as the doorbell rings. If she’s among the latter, you need to take steps to minimize her stress levels and keep her as comfortable as possible.
For scaredy cats
- Create a comfortable haven in a bedroom or spare room with her litter box and some special new toys. Keep the lights low and play some soft music in the background – it will help diffuse the noise from your company.
- Confine your cat to her quiet place before guests arrive to avoid a last minute chase through the house. Keep the room’s door closed until everyone is in and settled. Then, if you wish, you can open the door a bit so she can come out if she chooses.
- If she’s really stressed by company, use a pheromone spray, plug in a Feliway diffuser, or rub some Rescue Remedy on her ears.
- Keep in mind that Christmas crackers and New Year’s poppers and horns can definitely add to your cat’s stress, so avoid these if she’s especially anxious.
- Try to stick to your cat’s normal routine as much as possible. Feed and play with her at the usual times and remember to clean out her litter box regularly.
Safety tips for social butterflies
Even if your cat is cool with company, you should still take some precautions to ensure she stays safe.
- Keep her confined when your guests are arriving, and when they leave. Your cat may love weaving around everyone’s legs, but she could slip outside unnoticed when the door is open. Either way, she should be microchipped or wear a collar with identification.
- Watch for over-stimulation in your cat. All the excitement may result in a swipe or a bite. If your cat is getting too wild, give her some time out in another room until she calms down.
- Caution children not to chase or pick up your cat. Take a few minutes to show them the proper way to greet and pet her.
- If you’re having overnight house guests, make sure they keep their medications secure.
- If your cat is mingling with your company, offer guests a fishing pole toy so they can play with her without handling her. Even if your cat loves being picked up or jumping on laps, it should be on her own terms, not your guests’.
- Ask guests not to feed your cat, even if she begs, and to make sure they leave things like chocolate, candy, grapes, raisins, alcohol and fat scraps out of her reach. This might not be easy if there are children present, so you’ll need to keep an eye on things and clear away any snacks or leftovers left lying around. During dinner, consider feeding your cat some special food in a quiet corner to avoid temptation.
- If your cat is in the midst of things when you’re exchanging gifts with your guests, be sure she doesn’t chew on any discarded ribbons or cords. Distract her by offering her a box with catnip sprinkled inside it.
- Even if your kitty is friendly, she may feel more comfortable observing the activity from the security of a tall perch or cat tree. Don’t force her to interact with company if she is hesitant.
Tips for your guests
- Discourage company from bringing their own furry friends along. Even more mellow kitties will probably object to a strange animal in their territory.
- Instruct your guests, especially children, not to enter the room you’ve put aside for your cat.
- If your cat does venture out of her room to find out what’s going on, ask your guests not to approach her or try to pick her up, as this will just scare her again. Let her call the shots as to whether or not she wants to make friends with anyone. If she doesn’t, let her withdraw again if she wants.
- If you have guests staying overnight, don’t use the same room for them as you’re using for your cat’s quiet haven.
Some cats will never enjoy company, no matter what, but by reducing your kitty’s anxiety and stress, you’ll help her feel safer and more comfortable, and that’s what’s most important.