Fireworks can cause stress, anxiety, and even aggression in pets. Keep reading for our top tips on preparing your pet for fireworks season.
Eleven tips to help your pet cope with fireworks
You may already know that your dog or cat is scared of fireworks from previous years, or you may have a new pet, and this could be their first experience of fireworks.
Fireworks are a key part of seasonal celebrations, including Bonfire Night, Diwali and New Year’s Eve. While they can be fun for us, our pets tend to have a different view; 40% of pet owners say their pet fears fireworks, according to the PDSA. In some cases, the fireworks season can leave some pets traumatised.
If you have a pet that you already know becomes extremely stressed around fireworks, or a new pet that shows signs of being unable to deal with loud noises - please talk to your vet. There are a wide variety of medications which can be prescribed, and while some are now fast acting, it is worth talking to your vet several weeks in advance of Bonfire Night so that they can give you as many options to choose from as possible.
There are some other simple things that you can do to ease your pet’s stress around fireworks. Here are some useful tips to try and make them more comfortable.
1. Invest in a pheromone diffuser
Pheromone sprays and diffusers can help ease pet stress and anxiety, try placing a couple around the house - these can be a good way to keep nervous pets’ calm. You’ll need to do this at least a couple of weeks ahead of fireworks night for it to take effect.
Your vet will be able to help you choose an option that best suits your pet.
2. Walk dogs early
If you usually go for an evening or late-night walk, try to change the routine and head out early to avoid being outside when the fireworks start. Even if they don’t normally show fear around fireworks, dogs can be easily startled by loud, unexpected bangs while outside.
Gradually alter your normal walking routine about a week before fireworks occasions to get your dog used to the change. Be sure to keep them on a lead at all times during fireworks season; startled dogs can often run off without warning.
3. Keep cats in
If your cat is an outdoor cat that likes to wander, it’s worth trying to keep them in when they come home earlier in the day. Otherwise, there’s a chance they will still be out when the fireworks start.
4. Create a safe space for your pet
Creating a safe space in your house gives your pet somewhere calm and familiar to retreat to when they get scared. Fill a room or corner with food and water bowls, their favourite toys, and bedding to create a pet-friendly haven.
It’s important not to confine them to this area as this can make them feel even more stressed. You should just let them go wherever they feel safest.
5. Provide plenty of hiding spaces
Most homes are full of great hiding spots for dogs and cats, under the bed or behind the sofa, for example. Make sure you provide plenty of places they can safely hide away from the noise. This is particularly important for cats.
If they do decide to take refuge around the house, keep an eye on where they are to avoid shutting them in and cutting them off from other areas of the house.
6. Close windows, curtains, and blinds
Keeping your windows closed can help muffle loud noises and prevents your pet from escaping if they decide to flee. You may also want to close any curtains or blinds to further soundproof your home and shut out bright flashes and sparks that can scare pets. Don’t forget to lock the cat flap to prevent your cat from getting outside.
7. Turn up the radio or TV
Turning on the radio or TV not only helps mask the loud bangs and crackles of fireworks, but also provides a familiar noise to help distract your dog or cat. Play calming music or turn on a programme you watch regularly to help reassure your pet that everything’s alright.
8. Give rabbits extra bedding
Rabbits tend to burrow when they get scared, so popping some extra bedding into their home gives them plenty to hide in and helps them feel protected against the noise.
You may also want to give them some extra hideaways, such as a ventilated cardboard box filled with hay, to ensure they have lots of opportunities to take refuge from the noise.
9. Stay at home
If at all possible, try to ensure that somebody is at home, this will help soothe your pet’s fears. Left to their own devices, your pet could become very stressed and destructive in your absence.
Remember to keep talking to your pet and give them plenty of love and attention during the fireworks. Knowing you’re there to protect them will reassure them and keep them calm.
10. Give them a treat
A tasty treat can make a world of difference to your pet’s stress levels and it’ll also reward their good behaviour and bravery. A stuffed chew toy can keep dogs occupied for hours, while a treat puzzle ball can have the same effect on cats and rabbits. These stimulating toys help take their mind off what’s going on around them and can even help them forget their fears.
11. Make sure they’re microchipped
Spooked pets can run away, especially cats, so make sure they’re properly microchipped to make them easily identifiable if they do. If your pet’s already microchipped, make sure your contact details are up to date so you can be contacted straight away.
General firework safety
Don’t forget to store fireworks well out of the way of any pets and dispose of used fireworks safely and securely. The morning after a nearby fireworks display, check your garden for any fallout or shrapnel which may pose a risk. Fireworks contain highly toxic ingredients that can be fatal to your pet if accidentally eaten, so remember to stay extra vigilant during fireworks season.
Desensitising your pet
With many different holidays coming up, including Firework Night, Diwali, and New Years Eve, you may want to start desensitising your pet against fireworks in time for those celebrations.
Most animals have a much better sense of hearing than humans do, which makes them a lot more sensitive to noise. Add to this the unpredictability of fireworks, and most pets will perceive them as a huge threat and become extremely anxious. It’s natural for any living being, human or animal, to jump or fearful of loud noises. Unlike us, animals don’t understand fireworks and so have no context for the noise.
You should make your pet as comfortable as possible, a safe space to hide is always good. Try and ensure they aren’t left alone and close windows and curtains to muffle out noise and avoid flashes of light. You can turn the TV or radio up louder than usual to ‘flatten’ out the noise. Dogs should be walked earlier and always kept on a lead and try to keep roaming cats indoors earlier in the day. A tasty treat and lots of calm cuddles will also help.
It goes without saying that you should try to keep your pet indoors. Many pets will appreciate a safe space that they can retreat to. Set-up a space with their creature comforts, but don’t lock them in one area of the house - allow them to roam the house as much they need to. For rabbits, if you can’t bring them indoors – do as much as you can to muffle the noises and lights, ensuring that you leave a ventilation gap. Extra bedding will help them to burrow a bit deeper.