Uncommon Pet Stressors and What To Do About Them
Like humans, pets are individuals with their own set of personality quirks.
While one dog may find the vacuum cleaner terrifying, another may be just ignore it.
In some cases a pet’s anxieties may be related to previous trauma, while in other cases it’s related to health conditions. It’s important to get to the bottom of things if there seems to be a trend toward anxiety. Because your pet’s stressors may not always be completely obvious, here are some to look out for and ways to handle them.
Pets (and humans) are often creatures of habit. There’s a certain stability and comfort in the known and routine. When something changes—like someone new in the house—it can cause some disruption to that comfort level. If you have someone visiting overnight that your pet hasn’t met and your pet is comfortable around strangers, have them socialize and even play a little. Your friend can offer some of your pet’s favorite treats.
If your pet is not comfortable with socializing, make sure you give your pet his own space in the house where he can retreat and feel safe. Never force your pet to socialize. Make sure everything else in the house remains as stable as possible—feed him at the same time, go on his usual walks and give him the same amount of play and affection time.
Construction or Maintenance Work
Sometimes environmental factors out of our control take place that can have an impact on our pets. While nearby construction or tree maintenance work can be an annoyance for us, it can turn into some major stress for pets and their sensitive ears. While there’s not much you can do to stop the surrounding noise, there are a few things you can try at home. Music—especially classical—can be soothing for some pets. Bach Rescue Remedy, a flower remedy formula, may also help with calming. The ThunderShirt uses light compression to soothe pets (like swaddling an infant, according to the company) and can be used for many anxiety-inducing situations. Make sure to slowly introduce the shirt to your pet.
A New Car
While the idea of a new car for us inspires a sense of excitement, your pet may have a different idea. For your pet, the family car is probably something of an extension of his home. Changing the environment of part of his home may be disconcerting and upsetting. While this shouldn’t prevent you from buying a new car, it’s good to keep in mind so you can take a few preventive measures.
First, make sure your car smells like you and your pet as much as possible. Transfer whatever items were in your previous car over before your pet gets into the new car. You can also bring in a favorite toy or bed from home to make the new space more comfortable. Bring a favorite chew toy and treats as well. Once you bring your dog to the new car, allow him all the time he needs to smell the car before asking him to get inside. If he doesn’t want to get inside right away, don’t force him. If it means leaving him at home for a couple of car rides, that’s okay. Just keep taking him to it to examine the car and throw some treats into the car until he’s ready. Keep your tone light and fun.
AC and Heating
Fans, heaters and air conditioning serve very important functions for all of us, but some pets may find the invisible blowing air, movement, and sound to be quite disturbing. If your pet hasn’t been exposed to air conditioning or you have a new fan or heater, make the introduction slow and pleasant. Try turning it on for a short period at first so your pet can get used to it. Keep it at a safe distance and give your pet plenty of treats and encouragement.
Dogs and cats have a much stronger sense of smell than us. A new shampoo, skin lotion or perfume for us may be something of a sensory assault for our pets—especially our cats, who can be really bothered by scents. If you have changed something in your skin care or beauty routine and suddenly notice a pet shying away from you, it could be a scent that is bothersome. If you really love the new scent, try wearing less of it or avoiding use around your pet.
Besides picking up on scents and sounds, our pets are also quite adept at sensing our state of mind. While we can’t always control when we’re angry or sad about something, it’s important to remember that our pets notice and may also be affected. If you see your cat zip off or if your dog places a concerned head on your lap, take the time to give him a good scratch to ease his worry. It might make you feel better too.