Pet Tips for Easing Holiday Stress

Twas the day of Black Friday when all through the store, not a person was smiling from ceiling to floor. The bargains were hung on the fixtures with care, in hopes that frayed shoppers soon would buy there.

And the frenzy continues through the first 24 days of December. Take it from your loving pets – relax! We furry friends never stress over the holidays, and you never see us waiting in long lines for treats or toys. Check out our tips for easing holiday stress.

Practice “Less is More.”

Consider giving one thoughtful gift instead of a pile of fad gifts that eventually wind up in a garage sale or buried in the backyard. Try sending greeting cards only to the people you visit regularly. We pets love it most when you simply spend more time playing with us.

Reflect on the True Meaning of the Holiday.

Pause, take a deep breath, and remember the true significance of the holiday you are celebrating. Remember that most holidays were not historically rooted in commercialism or competition for the most elaborate decorations. Remember Snoopy’s doghouse in A Charlie Brown Christmas?

Ask for Help.

No need to beg. Most people will happily assist with holiday tasks when they can do them in their own way and on their timetable. We pets will gladly sample cookie dough or fetch sparkly ornaments to place on the lighted Christmas tree. 

Mend Fences Before Holiday Gatherings.

Most of us know that difficult uncle, barky dog, or snobby cat who can dampen holiday cheer. When possible, mend fences with these people or pets ahead of time. Otherwise, limit or avoid contact with them. 

Help Someone in Need.

Perhaps you know an aging widow who will spend Christmas alone in a nursing home. Imagine the delight on her face to receive a surprise visit from you and (if permitted) your pet. Staff and caregivers will treasure a thoughtful gift of cookies or chocolates while working holiday hours. 

Stay Balanced.

Avoid those extra pounds by enjoying those tempting candies and eggnogs only on the holidays – not the entire month of December. Take your precious dog for an extra-long brisk walk when you do indulge. 

Create a New Holiday Tradition.

Pursue at least one tradition that holds meaning for you. Try reading an inspirational poem or sacred text after a holiday meal, crafting a unique ornament in memory of a departed loved one, or volunteering at a local animal shelter.

Write it Down.

Don’t rely on your memory. Keep a notebook or smartphone handy to job down tasks, ideas, gift lists, and dates. Make sure to place pet toys on the top of your shopping list. 

Practice Gratitude.

During this holiday season, focus more on what you have than what you want. Take extra time to appreciate simple joys – like savoring the aroma of roasted turkey or petting your loyal dog or cat in front of a crackling log in the fireplace.

Reach out for Support.

Not everyone enjoys a Norman Rockwell holiday season. Just ask Max, the Grinch’s sweet little dog. Grief, financial struggles, relational conflicts, abuse, health problems, and depression often intensify with shorter days and greater expectations. Talking things out with a spiritual director, mental health professional, or crisis volunteer can help lift a dark mood.


When you finish your holiday chores, please remember to laugh, and have some fun. We pets can’t wait to jump into those empty boxes after family members open gifts. 

Follow these tips, and you too can shift from Hum Bug to Ho Ho!

Image is under license from Emolaev Alexander/

Article by Jessica Loftus, Ph.D., clinical psychologist, and career counselor.

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