Lots of people celebrate Bonfire Night by watching spectacular firework displays or setting off their own in the back garden. Whilst this is a lot of fun for those involved, it’s important that you keep both yourself and your pets safe.
Fireworks can cause stress, anxiety, and even aggression in pets, as many animals find the loud bangs and bright lights frightening; it is estimated that 45 percent of dogs in the UK show signs of fear when they hear fireworks. You may already know that your pet is scared of fireworks from previous years, or have a new pet, and this could be their first experience of fireworks. Here are a few simple things you can do to help prepare your pet for firework season.
Plan ahead for your pet
Plan ahead by noting down the dates of any local firework displays in your diary, so you can make the necessary arrangements for your pet. For example, take your dog for a walk during daylight hours, well before the fireworks are due to be set off, so that they can be kept inside once the fireworks begin.
Getting your pet used to common sights and sounds at a young age by playing a socialisation CD in a safe, calm environment is a great way to get them used to sounds, including fireworks, meaning they are less likely to be afraid when they hear real fireworks. For peace of mind, just in case they get spooked by the fireworks on the night and run off, it is a good idea to check that all your details registered to their microchip are up to date.
If you know your pet is prone to noise phobia and extreme anxiety during the fireworks season, you might like to consider a natural anxiety/calming pet food or supplement to help manage their stress and anxiety. There are also various plug-in products to help comfort and calm your pets such as ADAPTIL Calm Home Diffuser for dogs or FELIWAY Classic Diffuser for cats, both are available to buy from your Vet or good Pet Retailer.
Keep your pet inside
While fireworks are going off, it is advised to keep your pets in the house. Try to move animals in their hutches, such as guinea pigs or rabbits, to a garage or shed. It is also a good idea to bring your cat indoors before it gets dark, lock the cat flap, and ensure they have a litter tray so that they can still go to the toilet.
To help reduce stress, make sure all the windows and curtains are closed to muffle the sound of fireworks and soundproof your pets’ cages by putting a breathable blanket over the top. Some people find that turning up the television or playing music helps to keep their pets distracted and further mask the sounds of the fireworks.
Create a safe space for your pet
Providing a quiet space for your pet to hide in may help them feel safe and calm, whether this be giving them some extra bedding to hide in or building them a den with blankets and pillows to absorb some of the noise, in an area they feel safe in, such as behind the sofa, in a quiet room or even in a cupboard. Cats usually feel safest when high up, so they may prefer a well secured space on a shelf or the top of a cupboard. This will help them to feel in control.
Leading up to firework night, give your pet access to this den, offering healthy treats and praise when they use the den to build a positive association – do not force them to use it if they seem to prefer to hide somewhere else.
Listen and react to your pet
Different pets cope with the noise of fireworks in different ways. Firstly, stay calm; if you get anxious or make too much of a fuss of them, this can make them more unsettled. Give them some space and treat them as you would usually, keeping your tone, mood, and behaviour as normal as possible.
Follow their lead. If your pet prefers to hide away, let them be and do not try to comfort them – this is their way of coping. However, if your pet seeks reassurance from you and would rather be near you, gently talk to them and comfort them as you normally would. Cats usually prefer to control how they cope in stressful situations, so do not pick them up or try to retrain them if they are scared.
Finally, never punish your pets – it is not their fault they are scared, and any punishment or harsh words will only add to their anxiety.
Recognise the signs of stress in your pet
By spending time with your pet and learning its normal behaviour, you will gain a better insight into when they are afraid or stressed.
What to look out for in dogs:
- Refusing to eat.
- Trying to escape.
- Excessive barking.
- Pacing and panting.
- Clinging to owners.
- Shaking and trembling.
- Going to the toilet in the house.
- Cowering and hiding behind furniture.
- Destructive behaviour (chewing furniture etc.)
Similarly, cats also display behaviour such as:
- Refusing to eat.
- Trying to run away.
- Cowering and hiding behind or on top of furniture.
- Going to the toilet around the house, instead of outside or in their litter box.
If your pets display any of these symptoms, they might be afraid of fireworks. We would advise that you speak to your vet for more advice about how to help them.
Make Bonfire Night a good experience for you, and your pet.