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Decoding Your Pet’s Emotions: Christmas Joy & New Year’s Fears

The article discusses how to celebrate Christmas and the holidays with your pets, including communicating, gift ideas, pet-safe foods, and helping them deal with fireworks on New Year’s Eve.

Christmas is a special time to spend with your dog. Set aside time to play, cuddle and do fun activities with him.

Pet emotions Christmas. The domestication process allowed our pets to spend Christmas and the holidays by our side, participating in the Christmas meals and presents.

Communicating with emotions

This closeness has laid the foundations for ‘shared communication‘: dogs and cats can ‘read‘ the emotions we feel, observing the movement of the muscles in our faces and listening to our voices. The human members of the family are regarded as a ‘haven’ and a ‘role model’ to the extent that they can influence the dog to choose between a lot of food and a small amount of food; the ‘counterproductive choice’ leads the animal to prefer a few morsels over a hearty meal.

Cats can also recognise when family members are sad, angry, happy, etc. The little felines understand us and adapt their behaviour to our emotional state. For our pets to have a happy festive season, we must have some knowledge of their language to decipher their emotions, which can be joy but also fear and bewilderment (which could happen on New Year’s Eve).

Another kind of language

Animals do not communicate with words but can make themselves understood differently. Facial expressions (eyelids, eyes, pupils, ears, nostrils, whiskers) and the contraction of body muscles indicate what the dog or cat is feeling at that moment. The message conveyed is completed by the movements of the tail.

The general advice in view of the Christmas feast is not to vary your pet's eating habits and to keep him/her as far away as possible from dangerous temptations.

The position of this body part in the dog does not always indicate the perception of a positive emotion, such as joy. The tail wag testifies to the animal’s excitement, but the rest of the body suggests what it is feeling. On the other hand, the movement of the tip or the whole tail of the cat is always linked to emotional tension. The dog and cat experience primary (or basic) emotions such as joy, fear, sadness, anger, disgust and surprise.

Fear, for example, appears automatically as a response to a threatening stimulus: the pupil widens, the breathing rate and heart rate increase and the body prepares to respond to the stressful event. The dog or cat may flee or attack (fight or flight).

According to a British researcher, when a dog is happy, it brings its ears closer to its head, the eye is half-closed, and the labial rhyme is relaxed. In unfavourable conditions (e.g. when feeling anger or fear), he licks his lips and nose, keeps his mouth open and flattens his ears on his head.

The cat and dog’s emotional system has likely evolved to facilitate communication with their fellow humans and us. A recent study showed that dogs emit many more facial expressions when we observe them. Furthermore, these animals raise their eyebrows to make an expression similar to sadness to attract our attention.

Phobia and panic attack

Each emotion ‘colours’ an experience by attributing to it a positive (I liked it) or negative (I was frightened and so on) meaning. Adverse events are vividly fixed in memories even if the details are perceived less truthfully than what happened. Fear is fundamental as it allows the dog or cat to survive.

Stimuli can induce fear from the external environment, such as noise and memory. A sound, smell or taste can evoke unpleasant memories from the past. The fear of bangers at the end of the year causes the dog and cat to gasp at every roar, shake, wheeze, and seek comfort and contact with the human referent; the animal remains tense until the end of the sound event.

Phobia, on the other hand, is defined as an ‘intense and persistent, excessive or unreasonable fear provoked by the presence or expectation of a specific object or situation’. At the perception of the deflagration, the animal wanders around looking for a way of escape (even climbing up the furniture of the house), hides (e.g. under the bed, in the bathroom, in the shower or bathtub, in a wardrobe), repeatedly seeks contact with the human referent (attempting to climb into his arms) but is unable to calm down even if cuddled and cheered.

In addition, the dog may occasionally destroy objects such as the sofa or its bed, window shutters or doors to seek refuge inside the house when alone. Dogs and cats tremble, babble, leak drops of saliva, pant, vomit, urinate or defecate where they are. Moreover, the animal regains its composure hours after the sound event has ended.

The pet menu for Christmas lunch or dinner and gifts

It is necessary to consult a veterinary doctor before drawing up the Christmas lunch and party menu for dogs and cats. Many dishes harm these animals; others can cause gastrointestinal symptoms (such as vomiting or diarrhoea) or dermatological symptoms (such as otitis and dermatitis). The intestinal microbiota characterising each individual must be fed correctly to keep the body balanced. Chocolate (incredibly dark chocolate), macadamia nuts, grapes and sultanas, garlic and onions are some foods to avoid as they cause even severe symptoms.

Gifts, treats and Christmas lunch for pets

Gifts and treats evoke positive emotions such as curiosity, interest, pleasure and joy. There is no ideal gift, but one is most suitable for our dog or cat. The net offers numerous ideas that, with a bit of imagination, can help us find the perfect gift.

One idea to make your dog's Christmas even more special is to give him a gift designed especially for him.

We recommend making a package so the animal can unwrap it like a treasure hunt. Bows and ribbons, however, could be swallowed and should not be used. As the cat likes to play with the paper bags containing the presents, the handles should be cut off to prevent the little feline’s head from getting stuck. Many cats also like to receive an object to build together, such as a castle or a cardboard house, while a family trip can be a different present for the dog.

How to deal with New Year’s Eve

Here are a few tips on how best to deal with bangers and fireworks:

  • Set up a refuge room: choose the room where the noise of the bangers is least heard; lower the shutters or close the blinds.
  • Shelter dogs and cats usually live in the garden in a room in the house; these animals could climb over the fence and wander. Make a safe hiding place: open the lowest part of the wardrobe for the dog or the highest shelves for the cat and place a soft cushion instead of clothes.
  • Comforting the dog and cat: staying in the room, reading a book aloud and stroking the animal are emotional supports to help it cope with the event. Synthetic pheromones (specific to the dog or cat) applied in the shelter room reduce the animal’s stress.

Thank you for reading the article to the end. Your reading contribution was significant to us.

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The "Frenchie Breed" website is a blog aimed at dog owners. We regularly publish articles about our four-legged furry friends. Among the contents of our blog, you will find ample space on the latest news in the sector, with information and in-depth analysis dedicated to the world of dogs in all its forms, the latest trends and news of the moment, curious facts, events devoted to dogs, product reviews, as well as an intense activity of information regarding the health and well-being of pets.

Please Note: The articles in the 'Frenchie Breed Blog' are for information purposes only; nothing published can or should be construed as an attempt to offer professional advice or consultation with a physician, veterinary surgeon or another health professional.

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Written by Frenchie Breed

The "Frenchie Breed" website is a blog aimed at dog owners. We regularly publish articles about our four-legged furry friends. Among the contents of our blog, you will find ample space on the latest news in the sector, with information and in-depth analysis dedicated to the world of dogs in all its forms, the latest trends and news of the moment, curious facts, events devoted to dogs, product reviews, as well as an intense activity of information regarding the health and well-being of pets.

Please Note: The articles in the 'Frenchie Breed Blog' are for information purposes only; nothing published can or should be construed as an attempt to offer professional advice or consultation with a physician, veterinary surgeon or another health professional.

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