Fireworks can be terrifying for our pets. Frightened cats can startle easily, be more inclined to run away or get lost, or run across roads and be involved in tragic accidents. Inside the home, they can also develop behavioural problems, like inappropriate toileting and overgrooming.
Whenever there are likely to be fireworks around, we would strongly advise keeping your cat safely inside before it gets dark; lock all doors, cat flaps and windows to stop the cat getting out and also to help keep the noise down.
The act of shutting a cat indoors can induce a certain amount of stress in its own right, so it is advisable to start getting them used to the routine in advance of any firework displays that may occur with plenty or treats/play/positive reinforcement.
- You can try to desensitise your cat to the sounds of fireworks before the season actually comes around. There are many clips available on YouTube which you can play occasionally to gauge your cat’s response, increasing the volume steadily depending on how they cope with this.
- Make sure there is a safe space for your cat to hide/sleep (cardboard boxes are very popular!)
- Do not seek out your cat to cuddle it if it wants to be solitary. Holding them and stopping them running away can make them feel more trapped and so change the way they behave towards you. Let your cat come to you if it wants company.
- Use plenty of treats to distract your cat from noise outside.
- Consider pheromone diffusers to help make your cat feel more secure. Initiate these at least a week before any fireworks and maintain their use throughout firework season.
Unsurprisingly, dogs can find firework displays incredibly worrying and stressful.
The best things to do for your dog, even if they do not appear significantly stressed initially, is desensitisation to the noises, distractions with their favourite toys or treats, and making sure your dog feels safe.
- It is best to walk your dog well in advance of any displays being set up, so there are no sudden surprises when out and about.
- It can be useful to keep the radio or TV on to mask any sudden bangs, to reduce the impact on your pet.
- Create a safe place or den where your dog can feel secure. Put blankets that smell of you and their favourite toys in there too. Never lock them in this crate, keep their options open for if they want to hide or venture out to be with you for support.
- Close any curtains or blinds so the bright flashes from fireworks are less likely to be startling.
- Allow your dog to pace if they need to, and do not shut them away in one room as this can make them feel more trapped.
- Check your dog’s microchip details are up to date – this is an easy one to forget but unfortunately, there is a rise in dogs going missing during the firework time of the year.
- If you can stay calm during fireworks, this can help to reassure your dog too. The more you fuss around your dog checking they’re ok, the more abnormal this can seem to them, so actually stress them more.
- Try to make your house and garden as escape proof as possible.
- Give your dog a big chew that they can spend hours occupying themselves with, or a snuffle mat to hide treats inside.
- Make sure there is plenty of water in their bowl – dogs will pant when stressed, so this can also mean they need to drink more in order to avoid dehydration
- Contact your vets if none of these steps are enough. There are medications that can be used to help alleviate anxiety, but in many cases, these need to be started weeks or even months in advance of the fireworks season. Other alternatives include behavioural referrals but there is no such thing as a quick fix.