The nights are drawing in and bonfire night will soon be upon us. Whilst bonfire night can be a great celebration for us, the fireworks can cause our pets great distress.
Firework noises are not scary to us because we know to expect them and understand that the noise poses no threat. Unfortunately we cannot explain that to our dogs and cats. Also their hearing is much better than ours. To them, these are unexpected and very loud noises which they think of as a real threat. If they cannot escape the noise and it continues, they can feel trapped and vulnerable.
Both dogs and cats can be affected by this, but some may be more scared than others.
We often think more of our dogs when we think about being scared of fireworks, as they are often more obviously distressed. Signs of anxiety in your dog include drooling, shaking, panting excessively and tail between their legs. If they are very scared they can also have accidents in the house, hide, become aggressive and even run away.
Cats can be just as scared as dogs but they are often more subtle. They much more often hide somewhere they perceive as safe and can become aggressive if they are disturbed. But, if there is an escape route, they can run away to try to escape the noise. They can become lost and not be able to find their way home. Many more stray cats are found this time of year for this reason! Make sure your cat is microchipped so you can be reunited if they escape this firework season.
Here is a list of ideas of things you can do this firework season to help ease the stress on your pets:
- Always keep your pet indoors when there are fireworks being let off. If you have a dog then you can time walks earlier to avoid being out when the displays start. If you have a cat, you can bring them in earlier or not let them out in the evening or night time in firework season.
- Place litter trays in the house even if your cat does not normally use them. If they need to urinate but don’t want to go outside this can cause more stress.
- Make sure that all the windows and doors are shut (and block off the cat flap if you have one!). This reduces the noise as much as possible and prevents your dog or cat from escaping when they are scared.
- Close the curtains to block out the flashes of the fireworks.
- Put the radio or TV on to distract from the noise. This helps to block out some of the scary noise. Do not turn it up too loud, this can scare your pet even more.
- If your pet has an accident in the house do not punish them! They are scared and shouting at them will only make it worse.
- Stay with your pet when fireworks are being let off. Be calm and act normally and this will help your pet to do the same. You make your pet feel safer so it is really important you do not leave them alone.
- If possible take your dog somewhere away from all the fireworks. If you have friends or family with a house away from the noise then take your dog there. This removes the problem!
- Create a safe space. Your cat will often just find somewhere to hide, but for a dog this can be more difficult! If you can crate train your dog, this is ideal but if that is not possible then you can make up an enclosed space with blankets, beds and toys. This allows your dog to hide and feel less vulnerable. It is important that if your pet hides, then you do not disturb them – they need to feel completely safe, like nothing can get to them.
- Praise your animal for calm behaviour, give treats and attention if they want it, but try not to reward fearful or panicky actions.
- You can buy a pheromone plug in (Adaptil for dogs and Feliway for cats). This helps them to stay calm but they do take about 2 weeks to get to full effect in your house so ideally have this plugged in early to help during fireworks season.
- Check the garden before you let your pet out. The fireworks can stay hot for a long period of time and can cause burns. Also the metallic compounds used to produce the colour of the firework can be poisonous to cats and dogs. Remove any firework debris you find then let your animal out.
If you are worried about your pet this firework season, book an appointment with one of our vets. We can give you more specific advice for your pet and can prescribe some calming medication (this is a last resort but we understand that it is needed in some cases).