Top tips on how to calm an anxious dog or cat
An anxious dog or cat is a common reason for pet owners to visit their vet to get advice. Stress in pets can be a familiar occurrence for many owners with a number of reasons why it happens.
Both cats and dogs alike can suffer from anxiety, which can make certain situations stressful for their owner. Situations that may stress your pet include:
- Loud noises
- Staying in a cattery
- Vet visits
- New pet
- Separation anxiety
- Staying in kennels
- Moving house
If you have a nervous dog or cat, they may show common signs, which include: aggression, a decreased appetite, increased vocalisation, their ears may be pulled or pinned back, and they could be trembling or shaking.
In some pets, stress can also lead to other health concerns, such as urinary tract function in cats. No pet owner likes to see their beloved companion distressed, but we highlight some positive things that could help to calm an anxious dog or cat:
Create a safe zone
Make sure your pet has a den or a spot they can retreat to if they start to feel anxious. For your cat, make sure that there are plenty of places available to sleep or hide in peace.
High areas for cats
Provide high accessible areas for your cat, such as shelves or on top of furniture. This allows them to feel safe, whilst still being able to watch and feel included in the family.
Exercise your dog regularly
Stress and anxiety can sometimes create uncontrollable energy. Taking your pet for regular walks or encouraging your cat to play and go outside can help to relieve some of that energy.
Keep to your routine
Fixed routines can help to keep your pet calm. Any changes to your normal household routine can upset and stress your pet. Stick to the same feeding and walk routine and stay calm yourself. Pets can pick up when you’re anxious and that could in turn cause them stress.
Distract your pet
Try to keep your cat or dog occupied. Use toys to play with your pet and keep them focused on something else. Play will also help to use up energy and they may sleep through the stressful situation.
Make sure that your cat has access to a scratch post to relieve boredom and anxiety. Stressful situations might make them scratch your furniture if they don’t have a suitable place to do it.
If you have more than one cat, make sure that you have at least one litter box per cat. Ensure that you cat also has somewhere to retreat to and get away from your pet dog or other pets.
Don’t shout at your pet
If they do anything out of the ordinary due to stress, such as toilet in the house or scratch furniture, refrain from shouting at them. Reward their positive behaviour with treats and ignore any unwanted behaviour. This can be a reaction to how they feel in a situation and shouting at them could lead to further stress and behavioural problems.
Keep the noise out
Play calming music if you have to leave your dog home alone, to help drown out external noise that could make them anxious. Create a calm environment for your cat or dog.
Comfort your pet
Sit close to your pet and stroke them to try and keep them calm. Physical contact could help to make them feel safe and reduce their anxiety. If they prefer to be by themselves, let them wander off to find a safe place to hide. Keep checking on them to make sure they are ok.
If you know a specific event, such as fireworks night or a trip to the kennels or cattery will cause stress, try to prepare ahead of the event. For trips to the vets of kennels, consider using a calming aid for dogs, such as nutracalm, which can be given 2 hours before the event. nutracalm is specifically formulated to naturally calm anxious pets.
Train your pet to deal with certain situations
If a trip in the car or a visit to the vet causes your pet to have anxiety, you could train them to get used to these situations. Separation anxiety is also common in dogs. Getting them used to being home alone for short periods of time can help. Reward your dog with a treat and praise them when they respond positively to training.
Socialise your pet
If you have a nervous dog when around people or other dogs, training classes could help reduce anxiety during these occasions. Don’t lock your dog away when visitors come or this will only add to their stress. Help them to become accustomed to socialising with people other than family members. Reward good behaviour with treats.
If you are worried about changes in your pet’s behaviour, speak to your vet who will be able to advise the best solution for your pet’s health needs. Ask your vet for more information on ways to aid your pet and how dog calming products such as nutracalm can help. nutracalm is specifically formulated to naturally calm anxious pets and help to reduce unwanted or unruly behaviour.