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Playtime Helps Relieve Holiday Stress in Pets

Holidays can be stressful to pets.

Any time there is a change in the household, it can be stressful for pets. And nothing says household changes like the holidays. That's why this time of year can find our pets more stressed out than usual.

When pets are stressed, they may engage in destructive behavior or inappropriate elimination.

Luckily, there are ways to decrease the stress and help pets cope. The number one thing you can do to help manage your pet's stress is engage in interactive play with them.

Why Are Holidays Stressful for Pets?

The factors that most often contribute to a pet's stress at the holidays are:

  • Visitors, both human and animal
  • Schedule disruptions for the humans in the house
  • Household décor and scent disrupted by a tree, decorations, candles, potpourri, and baking
  • Getting in trouble for messing with holiday décor and the tree
  • Increased stress levels of the humans in the home

Playtime Relieves Stress in Pets

One of the most powerful stress relievers for cats and dogs is play. It can release feel-good hormones to the brain, blow off steam, and engage the predator instincts, especially for cats.

Best Types of Play for Stress Relief in Pets

Interactive play is the best type to use for stress-relief in pets. This is where you are directly involved in the play.

For cats, it's using a wand or throw toy to pretend to be prey, so they can be the predator and hunt and pounce on it.

You can also enlist the help of your holiday guests in playing with your pets. This can have a two-fold stress relief benefit because it gets your pet to engage in interactive play, which we know is great for them, and also, it can associate those good feelings with the visitor in your pet's mind. That can further decrease your pet's stress by associating the previous stressor of a visitor with something positive.

For dogs, it's engaging by playing fetch or tug-of-war or going for a walk or job and providing lots of positive feedback in the forms of praise and petting.

Playing in these ways with your pet can have strong stress relief benefits for you too.

Below are some great ways to engage in interactive play with your cat.

Interactive Cat Toys

Wand toys are fantastic for imitating prey for cats and reducing stress. They consist of a stick with a string attached and a toy at the end of the string that looks like a rodent or bird.

Here are some examples of great, well-made wand toys:

Balls and tossable toys are also great for interactive play with your cat. They're a little more work for you because most cats don't bring them back, but you can get a few, so you only have to retrieve them after every third or fourth throw. Here are some examples of fun and durable throw toys:

Fun Cat Toys

Toys with squeakers and other fun noises are almost irresistible to cats. This Real Bird brand toy makes a realistic bird sound when a cat bats at it:

Here are a few more great squeaker toys:

Bunny kicking toys are great for cats that love to grab a toy with their teeth and front paws and then kick at it like crazy with their back paws. Like these:

Fun Cat Toys

What to Do After Playtime

We think it's best to have multiple cat toys that you know your kitty likes, so you can rotate through them during playtimes. Variety helps a cat's mind stay sharp because they feel like they're hunting new prey every day, just like they would if they were really hunting.

You must put away wand toys after a play session because they are a safety hazard for a cat to play with alone.

Interactive Dog Toys

A great dog toy will be durable, washable, and soft on your dog's mouth. You'll be able to toss it or tug with it and maybe even play hide and seek. Here are some examples of great dog toys:

Tug Toys

New Toys

  • Follow Me Toys from Knots of Fun are perfect for hours of play with your dog. They're durable, machine washable, and made in the USA of 100% Polartec Fleece. Follow Me Toys are non-toxic, can be frozen for use with teething puppies, and float in the pool.

Fetch Toys

  • Sailz is a great flying toy, light and fast, with a hole in the center to make it easier for your dog to pick it up. It's non-toxic, floats, and is made from recycled, ocean-bound plastic. You can also wash it in the dishwasher, so it doesn't get stinky and dirty.
  • Zisc is now available in a cool holiday red color. It's made in the USA, non-toxic, washable, and floats. It also flies far and fast, and it's made from soft materials, so it's easy on your dog's mouth. It's also available in small and large sizes, so you can choose the right one for your dog.
Order Soft Paws for Dogs Order Soft Paws for Cats

Backyard Squirrel Cardinal Shake Y'R Tail Mouse Cat Toy Play and Squeak Ball of Furry Fury Pouncy Mouse Honeysuckle Large Body Pillow - Single El Gato Muy Loco Catnip Cigar Yeowww!-tide Candy Cane Ratherbee Candy Cane Organic Catnip Toy Follow Me Toys from Knots of Fun Sailz Zisc

Disclaimer: This website is not intended to replace professional consultation, diagnosis, or treatment by a licensed veterinarian. If you require any veterinary related advice, contact your veterinarian promptly. Information at is exclusively of a general reference nature. Do not disregard veterinary advice or delay treatment as a result of accessing information at this site.