Cat and Dog Anxiety: 4 Top Tricks to Calm Them Down Fast
Updated: Apr 14
An anxious dog or cat is a cause for concern for any owner. Nervous pets may act out with bad behaviors; destroy furniture or household objects; have accidents in the house; or pace, whine, or vocalize. Stressed pets may also act out aggressively if they feel threatened or unable to escape a situation. Luckily, there are many techniques useful for calming our pets. By figuring out your pet’s cause of anxiety, you can help them feel more comfortable no matter the situation. Here are four tricks to help reduce cat and dog anxiety fast.
Identify the Source of Cat and Dog Anxiety
The very first step to solving anxiety is to identify what is causing your pet to be nervous. Do they get sick in the car? Do they experience separation anxiety or have an accident when you leave the house? Does the vet make them shiver? Are baths a scary experience? Perhaps there is a new human or pet in the house.
Separation anxiety in dogs and cats is one of the biggest triggers. Dog car anxiety comes in a close second. Watching for signs of what triggers the nervous behavior will help you figure out how to solve it. Training before the anxiety trigger occurs will help change your pet’s reaction to it. Keeping a journal can help you track your pet’s anxious behavior. If you notice it’s happening every time you leave, or at the same time of day, you can use this information to your advantage.
Distract and Train
Turning a negative experience into a positive one is a great way to solve anxious behavior. For example, if your dog is fearful of the bath, start by giving a treat every time they walk into the bathroom. From there, give a treat for going in the tub, and again when the water is on. You’ll want to take each step one at a time, and stick with that step until your dog is comfortable. No matter what is causing your pet’s nerves, breaking it down into smaller steps can help them more easily overcome it.
Be sure to pick a favorite treat or one that is rarely given, such as a piece of hot dog or lunch meat, to make the experience more exciting. High-value treats help entice your pet to get through the experience. Over time, your pet will understand that the scary thing isn’t so bad, and the treat helps build a positive experience with what is happening. This method is useful with other experiences as well, such as visiting the vet, going on a car ride, or meeting new people and pets. When not actively training, use a regular treat instead to help keep the high-value ones special.
If your pet has anxiety when you leave, distractions can work in a similar fashion. The first step is to make leaving less of a big deal. Change up your routine and make your exit as quiet and calm as possible. Keeping a TV or radio station set to a soothing channel can help mimic the sound of someone being home. Puzzle toys or chews such as Kongs stuffed with high-value treats can also help distract your pet. Finally, a scented object of yours, such as a blanket or T-shirt to snuggle, can help.
Cat and Dog Anxiety Treatments
There are many treatments for anxiety in pets. Most work by distracting or calming your pet. Pheromone diffusers and calming treats are a great supplement to training an anxious dog or cat. Diffusers work by releasing a species-specific pheromone designed to help promote calm behaviors. They are available as a collar or wall plug-in, and are great for easing tension between pets or when you have to leave the house. Be sure to place them in high-traffic areas for the best coverage.
Calming treats can be given before a stressful trip or inside a toy when leaving the house. If your pet has any medical conditions, be sure to check with your vet before giving any supplements to make sure there aren’t any interactions with your pet’s medications.
Give Your Anxious Pet Space
Pets that live in a very busy location such as one with lots of people or pets may become stressed or anxious if they don’t have their own space. Creating a space can be as simple as placing a crate or bed in an unused bedroom or having a perch up high for a cat to hop onto and observe. Any place your pet can get away and relax without interruption is beneficial. Make sure your pet has access to their food, water, toys, and potty areas to reduce stress and nerves.
If at any time your pet becomes too stressed in a new situation, stop any training and give your pet a break. Forcing them to continue the behavior can make stress worse and make the problem worse as well. By giving your pet a chance to relax and calm down in their own personal space, they learn that they don’t have to be afraid, because you will be there to stop the scary situation. Once your pet is calm, you can return to training from where they were comfortable.
These simple techniques can help to reduce stress and anxious behavior in your dog or cat. If the problem doesn’t improve, worsens, or you can’t seem to find a cause for the behavior it is always best to speak with a veterinarian as well as a behavior consultant. They can help you rule out health-related causes of stress and nerves as well as formulate a training and treatment plan tailored to your pet. With a little patience and love, you can help reduce cat and dog anxiety!
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