Top 5 Things that Stress Pets (and How to Avoid Them)
Pet owners may believe that their pets live a life of luxury without a care in the world. What they may not realize is that there are actually many things that can stress pets out.
Regardless of how cute they are or how well (or not) they obey commands, our pets primarily operate by their natural survival instincts. Conflicts between this intrinsic nature and their surrounding environment can lead to some pretty stressful situations for them. Luckily, pet owners can help to reduce these moments by better understanding how our pets think and operate. Let’s take a look at the top five things that stress pets and learn to avoid them.
Protecting resources is often the survival instinct’s way of avoiding lack and deprivation. Although you may be aware that there is enough food in the cupboard for all of your pets, they may not be, and will likely become stressed when another animal or person seemingly threatens their supply.
If you find that your pets seem stressed over sharing resources, first make sure that there is enough to go around. For example, if one or more pets become overly protective over the food bowl, try giving them each their own bowl. That way nobody’s supply is threatened and there is no need for the survival instinct to activate. Apply the same method to anything your pets may be overly stressed over, including toys, litter boxes, and beds.
Like humans, pets feel most comfortable in familiar environments, with familiar people. Be aware of your pet’s comfort level when someone comes to visit and don’t push any interactions.
The same goes for introducing new animals into the house. Allow them time to get a feel for one another and to establish their own dynamic. Also remember that introducing cats, for example, will differ from introducing dogs or cross-species.
Going to the vet can be an extremely stressful situation for many pets. Unless your pet has been visiting the same office since they were born, the vet is likely a stranger who your pet may be wary of to begin with. When they proceed to examine and do uncomfortable things like give shots without your pet understanding what is going on, the situation can quickly turn stressful for your pet.
Treats for good behavior and reassuring pets go a long way. Be aware of your pet’s coping skills and comfort level. Overall, you’re trying to make the visit as enjoyable as possible.
If your pet is stressed about going to the vet, you may also want to consider simply stopping in for a visit. Going to the office to say hi and eat a few treats without being examined will show your pet that it’s not a scary place and will hopefully allow them to be less stressed at their next visit.
Communication can be stressful for both pets and pet owners. Although many of us like to conversate with our pets, remember that they only understand a small percentage of what we’re saying. In order to communicate as clearly as possible, remember these key rules:
- Use simple commands with as few words as possible. Don’t make pets try to decipher what you mean.
- Be consistent in your commands, as pets won’t understand alternate wording. For example, we can’t expect a dog to understand what we want when we ask for “paw” on one day and “shake” on another.
- Be aware of tone of voice. Even if our pets don’t understand what we are saying, they can pick up on our mood through our intonation. Being too loud can also be scary for many animals and may make them unable to focus on what we are saying. It’s okay to be firm, but yelling at pets is generally not effective.
- Be consistent in your rules. Don’t allow them on the couch one day and punish them for it the next. Our pets don’t understand exceptions and special occasions and will be less stressed with set rules.
Just as yelling can scare pets, so can other loud noises. Fireworks and thunderstorms are notorious for inducing fear in many pets, but there are certain measures we can take to help avoid this stress.
Make sure your pet has a comfortable, safe space they can go to when they feel scared or stressed. Playing music or playing with toys can also help to distract your pet from loud noises. If the situation is severe, consult with your vet about medications or natural supplements such as CBD pet products.
Being a pet owner can have a steep learning curve, but trying to understand the world from their perspective helps. Understanding what stresses our pets out can help us avoid those situations altogether, leaving more room for butt scratches and play time.
Hannah Smith is Joy Organics Director of Communications. She is driven by her passion for providing clear and accessible wellness and CBD education. In 2015, she received her BA in Media, Culture and the Arts from The King’s College in New York City and before Joy Organics, worked as writer and photographer in the Middle East and North Africa. Her work has been featured on Forbes, Vice, Vox, Denver Post, and the Coloradoan.