Pets and humans are so different in how we approach the world, which can result in not just stressing pet parents out, but also the pet! Here are the seven biggest reasons pets get stressed out, and how to avoid them.
1. Not letting pets be pets.
Because dogs and cats are our best friends, we often forget that they're not human. Dogs like to bark, chew, sniff smelly things and dig in garbage cans. Cats can yowl, scratch and claw up your cushions, and bring you special presents like a dead mouse. If you don't understand animal behavior and have realistic expectations, it can be very frustrating. While pets shouldn't have free reign to whatever they want, you have to redirect "naughty" behaviors or train pets to follow your house rules. Not understanding your pet's most basic instincts may upset you, but your reaction stresses out your pet. Practice positive reinforcement and try to provide opportunities for your pet to succeed (as in, don't leave your favorite shoes out, or don't leave the couch corners unprotected) and don't punish pets for normal furry behaviors. Remember that pets are not behaving out of spite, but because a behavior is natural to them, or it has been reinforced by your response.
Dogs and cats both love a routine, like regular feeding times, playtime and consistency. If you're unpredictable in enforcing the rules, pups and kitties don't understand. So here are your golden rules:
- Do not change the law of the land — if your dog isn't allowed on the bed, do not change it up for "special occasions." Commit and do not go back on it.
- Do not use a variety of verbal commands for one single behavior. Stick to using the same single-word commands repeatedly.
- Do not frequently change their food (or feeding time), as it can be a source of stomach issues for both dogs and cats!
Furthermore, changing up the house can stress a pet out: moving the litter box, their crate, and even rearranging your furniture can be a source of stress. Make changes slowly and allow lots of curious sniffing throughout the process.
3. Hugging, smothering, or cornering a pet when trying to give affection.
Some cats and dogs like to be hugged, but the majority of vets and trainers say it's too stifling and contrary to their nature. So while we humans consider it a sign of affection, dogs and cats can feel trapped and panicky, especially if it is from a stranger or a child. Snuggling doesn't have to rely on restraining our furry friends; and without it, petting and brushing is more readily appreciated. Some pets simply don't like our human modes of affection, so get to know your individual pet and respect his or her wishes.
4. Pointing or shaking a finger.
Usually, this is coupled with a menacing, tall-standing posture and a threatening tone of voice. The gesture universally induces stress for dogs, and cats aren't too fond of it either. Animals rely heavily on body language to interpret our emotions and actions, so this pointing or scolding verbally simply stresses pets out rather than fixes the behavioral issue.
5. Not enough exercise.
Want to avoid destructive behavior and later health issues? Get your dog or cat moving! Exercise nips boredom in the bud and your pet will stay fit, both physically and mentally, which ultimately leads to a reduction in stress. Just like people, pets may need to blow off some steam!
6 Sharing resources with other pets.
It's not just people who stress out pets; other pets in the house can affect a cat or dog's mental wellbeing, especially when it comes to dinnertime. Ease anxieties by giving each pet their own bowl and feeding area. You may also need to extend this to cat litter boxes: each cat gets their own box, and experts recommend even having an extra in the house. Each pet should have his or her own sleep space too. Another rift in pet peace: when one of your pets is a bully. If you find that one pet is beating up the other, you will need to call in reinforcements with a trainer or an expert. Sadly, there are even times when animals must be rehomed because they are simply incompatible or downright cruel to other pet family members.
7. Going to the veterinarian.
The classic stress-inducer! Getting pets to the vet can be traumatic for everyone involved. Dogs and cats can be familiarized to their carriers, and it's recommended to pop in to the vet while out walking the dog just to say hi (and get some free treats while you're there!). VetzInsight.com has some great ideas in the article, "Acclimating your Pet to the Vet Visit," on how to appropriately prepare your pet to the vet.
If you're concerned about your pet's mental well-being, you probably care about their physical well-being too! Consider enrolling in pet insurance for those unexpected accidents and illnesses that can take a toll on their body and your bank account. Get your free quote today.