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7 Things You Do That Stress Your Pet Out

By Colleen Williams
October 27, 2017 • 3 min. read
stressed out pup

While pets and humans can have similarities, we are drastically different species. These differences in how we approach the world can result in stressing pet parents out, but more commonly, it really affects the pet. Here are the seven biggest reasons pets get stressed out, and how to avoid them.

  1. Not Letting Pets Be Pets

Dogs and cats can be our best friends, but a quick reminder: they’re not human. Dogs like to bark, chew on stuff, sniff smelly things and dig in the garbage. Cats can yowl, scratch and claw up posts, and bring you special treats like a dead bird. If you don’t understand animal behavior or put in place realistic solutions, it can be very frustrating. While pets shouldn’t have free reign to whatever they want, you have to redirect these behaviors or train pets to follow the rules of the house. Not understanding your pet’s most basic instincts may upset you, but it’s your reaction that will stress out your pet. Practice positive reinforcement and try to provide opportunities for your pet to succeed (as in, don’t leave your favorite shoes out on the floor, or don’t leave the couch corners unprotected) and cool out on punishments for normal furry behaviors. Remember that pets behave not out of spite, but because a behavior is natural to them, or is being reinforced by your response.

  1. Inconsistency

Dogs love a routine, but cats also thrive on regular feeding times, playtime and consistent rules. If you’re inconsistent, pups and kitties don’t understand. So here are your golden rules:

  • Do not change the law of the land – if your dog isn’t allowed on the bed, do not change it up ever so often for “special occasions.” Commit and do not renege.
  • Do not use a variety of verbal commands for a single behavior. Stick to using the same single-word commands repeatedly.
  • Do not frequently change their food (or feeding time), as it can be a source of stomach issues for both dogs and cats!

Furthermore, changing up the house can stress a pet out: moving their litter box, crate, and even rearranging furniture can be a source of stress. Make changes slowly and allow lots of curious sniffing throughout the process.

  1. Hugging, smothering, or cornering a pet when trying to give affection

Some dogs like to be hugged, as do some cats, but the majority of vets and trainers say it’s contrary to their nature. So while we humans consider it a sign of affection, dogs and cats can feel trapped and panicky, especially if it is from a stranger or a child. Snuggling doesn’t have to rely on restraining our furry friends; and petting and brushing is more readily appreciated, depending on the animal. Some pets simply don’t like our human modes of affection, so get to know your individual pet and respect his or her wishes.

  1. Pointing or shaking a finger

Usually, this is coupled with a menacing, standing-over-them posture and a tone of voice that is threatening. The gesture is a universal stress-inducer for dogs, and cats aren’t too fond of it either. Animals rely heavily on body language to interpret our emotions and actions, so this pointing or scolding verbally simply stresses pets out rather than fixes the behavioral issue.

  1. Not Enough Exercise

Want to avoid destructive behavior and later health issues? Get your dog or cat moving. You’ll nip boredom in the bud and your pet will stay fit, both physically and mentally, which ultimately leads to a reduction in stress. Just like people, pets may need to blow off some steam!

  1. Sharing Resources with Other Pets

It’s not just people who stress out pets; other pets can do a number on a cat or dog’s mental wellbeing, especially when it comes to dinnertime. Ease anxieties by giving each pet their own bowl and feeding spot. You may also need to extend this to cat litter boxes: each cat gets their own box, and experts recommend even having one extra in the house. Each pet should have his or her own sleep space too.

Another rift in pet peace: when one of your pets is a bully. If you find that one pet is beating up the other, you will need to call in reinforcements in the form of a trainer or expert. Sadly, there are even times when animals must be rehomed because they are simply incompatible or downright cruel to other pet family members.

  1. Going to the Vet

The classic stress-inducer! Getting pets to the vet can be downright traumatic for everyone involved. Dogs and cats can be familiarized to their carriers, and it’s recommended to pop in to the vet while out walking the dog just to say hi (and get some free treats while you’re there!). has some great ideas in the article, “Acclimating your Pet to the Vet Visit,” on how to appropriately prepare your pet to the vet.

If you’re concerned about your pet’s mental well-being, you probably care about their physical well-being too! Consider enrolling in pet insurance for those unexpected accidents and illnesses that can take a toll on their body and your bank account. Get your free quote today.

colleen williams
By Colleen Williams

Over the past decade, Colleen has written about health, wellness, beauty, and even pets for The New York Times, The Cut, Refinery29, xoVain, Healthy Paws Pet Insurance, and Seattle Met Magazine, as well as many beauty brands. She has a BFA in Art History from the University of New Mexico and an AAS in Fashion Design from Parsons School of Design in New York.

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