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Holiday stress isn't only for humans

Not all pets love the holiday season, nor do they like being dressed up for it. Care must be taken that animals are cared for properly and their feeling considered when having celebrations.

The holidays are often a time of excitement and frenzied activity. Daily schedules are thrown out the window. While some people revel in this hustle and bustle, others would rather have a little more peace and quiet. The same can be said for household pets.

Just as the holidays can disrupt the schedules of people, animals are affected, too. Some pets are more adaptable to the changes taking place. Others can get very stressed out from the activity.

Here are some challenges pets can face.

•Dietary changes. Pets could be stealing unhealthy snacks of people food from the leftovers that remain from indulgent dinners. Also, because of shopping, traveling and social engagements, feeding schedules could be disruptive. For a pet with a delicate digestive system to begin with, changes could be troublesome.

•Altered exercise regimen. A pet who may be used to long jaunts through the neighborhood may be faced with shorter trips in the backyard. Lack of exercise can cause behavior problems from boredom and even depression.

•Trouble traveling. Some pets adore car rides, others want to run and hide at the sight of the family mobile. The holidays can mean traveling to see distant family members or taking vacations. Depending on the animal, these extra trips could be nervewracking experiences.

•Extra "stuff." What would the holidays be without decorations? A cat who loves to sleep on the windowsill of a bay window may soon find her spot taken up by faux snow and Santa figurines. Dogs may wonder about the large evergreen tree stationed in the middle of the living room. Pets have to get used to trinkets and presents all around their home, taking up space and causing confusion.

•Room and board. Pets that will not be accompanying their owners on holiday trips may find themselves in a neighborhood kennel. This can be stressful for pets, especially those not used to spending hours in a cage.

•People they don't know invading their surroundings. Holiday gatherings may make for a good time for humans, but often pets that are either not used to a lot of people being around or are scared of strangers end up causing problems for their humans. Small children in particular may bother pets that are not used to their presense in a house. Be patient and place animals that have a hard time with people they don't know in a comfortable room or area where the will not be bothered.

•Unfamiliar sounds. As with the Fourth of July, New Years is a time for fireworks. Some animals get just as scared of fireworks in the winter as they do in the summer and those that are known to have fear of the booms and pops should be put away in a place where they will feel safer. It is best if they can be isolated so they can't even hear the noise.

The best way to help animals cope with the changes of the holidays is to try to stick to a routine as much as possible. Like children, pets are soothed by a routine and knowing what to expect next. Try to keep feeding schedules, walks, playtime, and the like as close to normal as possible. And when it's not possible, spend extra moments lavishing attention on pets that may be feeling a bit left out this time of year.

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