Planning A Party? How To Keep Anxiety (Yours And Your Pet’s) At Bay

When you have pets, party planning takes on a whole new meaning, and not necessarily in a good way. Many dogs and cats are spooked by the presence of strangers noisily enjoying themselves in the living room. Similarly, they don’t share any enthusiasm for backyard barbecuing or raucous swimming parties with children shrieking and splashing about.

In these situations, a pet’s stress and feelings of anxiety are very real; from their standpoint it is an invasion of their territory and privacy. So it’s important to cater to them by ensuring that they are sequestered in a part of your home away from all the revelry and loud music. Here’s how to throw a pet-friendly party.

Getting Ready

If you are expecting a large crowd and planning involves moving furniture, outside caterers coming in to take over the kitchen, and possibly a teenage cousin showing off his DJ skills and doing sound checks, confine pets in a safe, comfortable area during this preparation stage.

During such preparation, front doors and outside gates are often left open and unmonitored as people go in and out. This makes it easy for pets to slip out and run away. By the time you notice their absence, they may have hotfooted it some distance from home.

Safe Room Savvy

To prevent canine and feline angst, give pets a party of their own by setting up a quiet room for them and kitting it out with toys, treats, their favorite beds, and necessities such as a litter box, food, and water. Placing a plug-in pheromone dispenser can help to create a calm zone where pets feel relaxed.

Pheromones are a substance that mother dogs and cats produce to calm their young. They may help alleviate stress-induced behaviors such as separation anxiety, inappropriate marking, chewing, and other destructive behaviors. Allow time for pheromones to circulate in the room by plugging in the diffuser a couple of days in advance of your event.

For pets who are particularly frightened by loud music or fireworks, a pressure garment such as a ThunderShirt is worth considering. They are available for both dogs and cats and come in all sizes, not to mention some fun patterns and colors. They work on the swaddling principle that mothers use to calm babies and small children and are recommended as a possible option by many behaviorists.

While they are sequestered, cats can relieve themselves in a litter box. Some dogs will use a puppy pee pad or an indoor doggie potty system. Alternatively, plan to take your dog for a nice long walk and a potty break just prior to guests’ arrival. This will also tire him out so he will be only too happy to snooze.

Once pets are settled, put a note on the door alerting guests to the pets’ presence and asking them to respect their privacy.

If you are entertaining on a low-key scale, some dogs and cats may enjoy mingling and garnering extra attention. That’s fine for pets who are social butterflies, but make sure they don’t have access to the food you are about to serve or to leftovers that have been cleared from the table, especially things such as bones and corn cobs, which can be choking or obstruction hazards.

To make sure you don’t miss out on any goodies, pack away hostess gifts such as cookies and boxes of chocolate. Some pets cannot resist the temptation. Chocolates are highly toxic to both cats and dogs. And at the very least, overindulging in cupcakes and cookies will make pets sick. Keep them out of the kitchen until you’ve had time to pack everything away, especially if they are accomplished counter surfers.

This article was reviewed/edited by board-certified veterinary behaviorist Dr. Kenneth Martin and/or veterinary technician specialist in behavior Debbie Martin, LVT.