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How to Keep Your Pet Calm During Social Gatherings

Hosting social gatherings can be a joyful and exciting experience, but for our pets, it can often be a source of significant stress and anxiety. Understanding how to recognize the signs of anxiety in your pets and implementing strategies to help them stay calm can make a world of difference. This comprehensive guide will delve into the causes of anxiety, how to prepare for gatherings, and practical solutions to keep your furry friends comfortable and safe during social events.

Understanding Pet Anxiety and How to Keep Your Pet Calm During Social Gatherings

Anxiety in pets is a common issue, with about 30% of dogs and a significant number of cats experiencing some form of anxiety. This emotional response is often triggered by unfamiliar situations, loud noises, or the presence of strangers. Recognizing the signs of anxiety in your pets is the first step toward addressing their needs and ensuring their well-being.

Signs of Anxiety in Dogs

  • Excessive panting

  • Pacing

  • Excessive salivation

  • Excessive vocalizations

  • Excessive licking of themselves, you, or objects

  • Dilated pupils

  • Ears pulled to the side or back

  • Tail hanging down or tucked under

  • Shaking

  • Feigned sleep

  • Drinking more water

  • Increased frequency of urination or defecation

  • Not eating as much

  • Staying close to their owners

  • Hiding

Signs of Anxiety in Cats

  • Excessive vocalizations

  • Hiding

  • Using the litter box less

  • Urinating or defecating outside the litter box

  • Decreased appetite

  • Dilated pupils

  • Ears pulled to the side or flattened

  • Tail tucked under their body

  • Feigned sleep

  • Hiding and not coming out to eat or use their litter box

What to Do if Your Pet Gets Stressed About Strangers

If your pet exhibits signs of stress when strangers are in the house, it's crucial to prioritize their safety and comfort. Pets that are highly stressed may display anxious behaviors long after the guests have left, including vomiting, stress colitis, decreased appetite, and lethargy. In severe cases, it might be best to avoid hosting gatherings or to make special arrangements for your pet.

Preparing Before the Event

Preparation is key to helping your pet cope with the presence of guests. Here are some steps to take before the event:

Create a Safe Space

Designate a quiet area in your home where your pet can retreat if they feel overwhelmed. This space should be as far away from the hosting area as possible and equipped with comfortable bedding, white noise, calming music, and pet pheromone products.

Q: What is the best way to create a safe space for my pet?

A: Choose a quiet room or area away from the main gathering. Equip it with comfortable bedding, toys, white noise, and calming pheromone diffusers or sprays.

Training to Use the Safe Space

Train your dog or cat to go to their safe space on cue by pairing the experience with a verbal command and a reward, such as a high-value treat or toy. Practice this routine regularly so that your pet associates the safe space with positive experiences.

Q: How can I train my pet to use their safe space?

A: Use clicker training or a remote treat dispenser to encourage your pet to go to their safe space. Reward them with treats and praise every time they use the space.

Checklist for Preparing Your Pet

  • Set up the safe space well in advance of the event.

  • Provide new puzzle toys and some of their old favorites.

  • Offer high-value treats and long-lasting chews.

  • Use a pheromone diffuser or spray in the safe space.

  • Play calming music or white noise.

Q: How soon should I start preparing my pet for a social gathering?

A: Start setting up the safe space and practicing the routine days to weeks in advance, depending on your pet's level of anxiety.

Preparing Your Pets on the Day of the Event

On the day of the gathering, follow these guidelines to help your pet feel more at ease:

  1. Exercise: Provide at least 30 minutes of exercise for your dog and 15-20 minutes of play for your cat. This helps reduce pent-up energy and anxiety.

  2. Training: Spend 5-10 minutes on training exercises to provide mental stimulation.

  3. Calming Products: Set up pheromone diffusers or apply sprays to their bedding.

  4. Supplements or Medication: Administer calming supplements or prescribed medications at least two hours before guests arrive.

  5. Safe Space: Place your pet in their safe space before guests start arriving.

Managing Your Pet’s Stress During the Event

To keep your pet calm during the gathering:

  • Limit Access: Use barriers or close doors to restrict guests' access to your pet's safe space.

  • Check-in Regularly: Visit your pet every 30-60 minutes to reassure them and offer treats or attention.

  • Observe Behavior: If your pet appears content, you may only need to check on them every 1-2 hours. If they seem stressed, visit more frequently.

Q: Should I let my pet interact with guests?

A: If your pet is comfortable and confident, brief interactions may be fine. However, if your pet is easily stressed, it's best to keep them in their safe space.

Real-World Perspectives: Insights from Pet Owners

Many pet owners have faced the challenge of keeping their pets calm during social gatherings. Here are a few real-world examples:

Scenario 1: Lucy the Labrador

Lucy, a Labrador Retriever, would get extremely anxious whenever her owners hosted gatherings. Her owners, Jane and Tom, created a safe space in a quiet bedroom and trained Lucy to retreat there on command. They used calming music and pheromone diffusers to create a serene environment. On the day of the event, they gave Lucy a calming supplement and placed her in the safe space before guests arrived. Regular check-ins and treats helped Lucy stay calm, and over time, she became more comfortable during social events.

Scenario 2: Max the Cat

Max, a timid cat, would hide under the bed for hours whenever visitors came over. His owner, Sarah, created a safe space in a spare bathroom equipped with a cozy bed, toys, and calming pheromones. She trained Max to use the space by offering treats and praise. During gatherings, Max stayed in his safe space, and Sarah checked on him regularly. This routine helped Max feel secure, reducing his anxiety significantly.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What if my pet still shows signs of anxiety despite my efforts?

A: If your pet continues to exhibit anxiety, consult your veterinarian. They may recommend additional strategies or medications to help manage your pet's stress.

Q: Can I use essential oils to calm my pet?

A: Some essential oils can be harmful to pets. Instead, use pet-specific calming products like pheromone diffusers or sprays.

Q: How can I help my pet recover from the stress after the event?

A: Provide a quiet environment, offer plenty of love and reassurance, and maintain a routine. Monitor your pet for any signs of prolonged stress and consult your veterinarian if necessary.


Hosting social gatherings can be stressful for pets, but with proper preparation and care, you can help your furry friends stay calm and comfortable. Recognize the signs of anxiety, create a safe space, use calming products, and consult your veterinarian for additional support. By taking these steps, you can ensure a positive experience for both you and your pets during social events.

How to Keep Your Pet Calm During Social Gatherings
How to Keep Your Pet Calm During Social Gatherings


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