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Keep Your Cat Low-Stress This Holiday Season


Holidays can be stressful for cats.

No one wants their cat to be stressed. We want them to be happy, healthy, and enjoying life every day. Unfortunately, the holidays can be a stressful time for some cats. That's because any change in routine or environment can trigger a feline's stress response. And those things definitely happen around the holidays.

Since you may not be able to avoid stress to your cat this holiday season, it's good to know there are ways to decrease its effects, including interactive playtime.

Cats enjoy a variety of scratching angles and surfaces.

Why Can Holidays Stress Cats Out?

The reasons for holidays being stressful to cats are plentiful and include:

  • People and pets visiting the house
  • Different schedules for owners and, therefore, for feeding, grooming, and sleeping for the kitty
  • Christmas trees and other decorations change the home's environment and can also cause stress when cats aren't allowed to play with them
  • Strange odors from candles, potpourri, and baking can be stressful
  • The humans in the home having elevated stress levels can trigger cats to feel stressed too

How to Tell If Your Cat's Stressed

Cats may show stress in different ways, and you'll have to learn what your cat does when stressed. The most common stress responses in cats are:

  • Urinating or defecating outside the litter box
  • Scratching inappropriate items
  • Hiding
  • Excessive grooming

Combat Stress with Playtime for Your Cat

One of the most powerful stress relievers in cats is play, and there are several reasons for that. One is that play is exercise. In humans, exercise releases feel-good endorphins that work on the brain to elevate mood. Researchers think that may be the same in cats.

Play, especially interactive play with you, imitated hunting for cats. With their strong predatory instincts, it's critical for cats to have an outlet to let off those hunting urges. Toys that you can manipulate to act like prey—birds or rodents—allow a cat to be the predator they are and that decreases stress.

Interactive play with your cat also has stress-relieving benefits for you. Cats are adorable when pouncing, swatting, and lunging for toys, and that makes your brain happy as much as it does theirs.

The Purrfect Angle provides your kitty with satisfying alternative scratching positions.

Great Cat Toys for Interactive Play

So, what interactive toys are best for stress-relieving play with your cat?

Wand toys are among the best for simulating prey behavior for cats. These toys have a stick with a string on the end, attached to a toy that's often furry or feathery. You hold the stick and make the toy at the end move like a rodent or bird, so your cat can chase and pounce.

Here are some examples of great, well-made wand toys:

While you are acting like prey for your cat's stress relief, you have to act realistic. Remember that prey doesn't lie there, unmoving, and allow a cat to grab it. Of course, it may freeze for an instant or two, but then it takes off. Also, prey doesn't generally run toward its predator. It usually flies or runs away, tries to hide, and shakes in fear. You can do all of that with a wand toy.

Of course, it's crucial for stress relief that your cat catches the prey eventually. Otherwise, the play session may result in an even increased level of stress. That's why you should make sure to let your cat catch the toy at the end of the session. You can even add a nice treat, to stand in for the meal the predator would get after the catch.

Squeakies, Balls, and Other Tossable Cat Toys

Tossing a small toy for a cat to chase and pounce on is a great way to simulate rodent behavior for your cat. Of course, most cats don't bring back the toy like a dog will while playing fetch, so these are a little work for the human too, but it's so much fun that you're not likely to mind. Kitties love to chase, pounce on, and carry small toys around, and most cats like toys stuffed with catnip or honeysuckle.

Pro Tip: If you keep a few tossable toys around, you can make a few throws for your cat before you'll have to get up and retrieve the toys.

A great toy for tossing is the Mini Crinkle Ball. They make a super fun sound when munched on and fly fast through the air, catching the light in ways that really get a cat's attention. They're affordable, so when your cat grabs one and stashes it in the toy graveyard that you have yet to find, you can pull out a new one easily.

The Chase, Rattle and Roll Ball is another fun tossable toy, with lots of great sounds cats can't resist chasing.

Toys with squeakers and other crinkle sounds at

Toys with squeakers and other crinkle sounds are almost irresistible to cats. Here are some irresistible squeaker cat toys:

Play-n-Squeak Backyard Squirrel Cat Toy with REALMOUSE sound Cardinal Shake Y'R Tail Feather Mouse Toy with RealMouse Sound Play-n-Squeak Ball of Furry Fury

Toys for Bunny Kicking

Does your cat love to grab a toy with their teeth and front paws and kick at it like a kangaroo with their back paws? If so, one of these toys, which are big and soft, will do nicely:

Toys for Bunny Kicking at

Pouncy Mouse Honeysuckle Large Body Pillow El Gato Muy Loco Catnip Cigar Yeowww!-tide Candy Cane Ratherbee Candy Cane Organic Catnip Toy

More Notes on Playtime

When cats go out to hunt, they don't go after the same prey every day, so you don't want to offer your cat the same toy every day. We recommend having multiple cat toys that you know your kitty likes. Rotate through them during playtimes, keeping the rest packed away. This helps combat boredom, which is also stressful.

Never leave a wand toy out after playtime is over. Put them away where your cat can't get to them because the string is a safety hazard for a cat attempting to play with one unsupervised.

Consider storing your catnip toys in a sealed plastic bag to help them last longer.

If your cat is overweight or obese, introduce play for exercise slowly to safeguard their joints. If your cat has high blood pressure or a heart condition, check with your veterinarian before beginning a play regimen.

The Purrfect Angle provides your kitty with satisfying alternative scratching positions.

Other Stress-Relievers for Cats

Along with interactive playtime, remember to reduce your cat's stress in the following ways:

  • Keep litter boxes clean and accessible, along with clean water and food.
  • Provide great scratching posts in good locations.
  • Spend time with your cat, brushing and petting them. Choose a time for this that isn't immediately after playtime, when your cat may be more likely to grab or bite your hand because they're keyed up from the "hunt."
  • Feliway is a product that mimics the feel-good hormones mama cats give off to calm their babies. It can help cats feel better if they're stressed about something and may be especially helpful if you have cats visiting for the holidays: "Fighting Feline Stress with Feliway."
  • Hiding spots and cozy beds make cats feel calmer. Learn more: "Why Do Cats Love Small Spaces?" Cat Caves are great for this.


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Disclaimer: This website is not intended to replace professional consultation, diagnosis, or treatment by a licensed veterinarian. If you require any veterinary related advice, contact your veterinarian promptly. Information at is exclusively of a general reference nature. Do not disregard veterinary advice or delay treatment as a result of accessing information at this site.