Keeping Pets Calm During Fireworks
It’s normal for pets to feel scared and anxious during fireworks; their hearing is much more sensitive than ours, meaning the loud bangs are even more intensified. And while we understand that the sounds are celebratory and controlled, animals have no understanding of what is going on, and may feel endangered.
But while it is common for them to feel this way, that doesn’t mean they have to. We’ve compiled the ultimate guide for recognising and understanding your pet’s stress, and how to help keep them calm during fireworks season.
Preparing for Bonfire Night
It’s important to prepare yourself, your home and your pet before Bonfire Night. Firstly, ensure that you have walked your dog before the evening - your pooch will get even more spooked if he is outside during the loud noises. It’s also a good idea to treat your pet to a tasty meal before the fireworks start, as this will make them happy and sleepy, and they may avoid eating if they are stressed later.
Due to the loud noises, it’s not uncommon for pets to become frightened and run away during fireworks. Try to keep all the doors shut to avoid this, but also ensure pets are microchipped just in case, so they can come home quickly.
Recognising your pet’s distress
Animal anxiety manifests in different ways in each pet, but there are common signs to look out for.
Dogs often tremble, shake, become more clingy with their owners or pace around the house. They also may excessively bark, drool or pant, and will go to the toilet in the house if they become particularly anxious. You can also look out for them trying to run around, escape from the noise, refusing food and cowering behind objects.
Cats are most commonly seen cowering or hiding behind furniture, but they may also run away or freeze in place. They can become aggressive - spitting, scratching, arching their backs or hissing - and like dogs, may lose control of their bladder or bowels.
Masking the noises
Keep windows and doors locked to reduce the noise impact of the actual fireworks.
Alongside this, background noise may be good - loud TV, radio or music, particularly songs with a repetitive rhythm or beat - are all helpful. Again though this will depend on the animal; a dislike of this noise or atmosphere will only heighten the anxiety, so read the need of your pet.
For pets who really struggle with loud noises, you can use certain sound therapy products to help them slowly adjust to the noises over a longer period of time.
Creating a safe atmosphere
Try to make your home as safe and comfortable as possible for your pet. Create safe places with lots of bedding, and offer verbal reassurance and praise to your cat or dog. You can prepare a den in advance, and offer praise when your pet goes there to ensure it is already a safe zone before the fireworks.
Use pheromone products - these are scents that we can’t smell, but which reduce anxiety in animals. Place these around the house, and particularly near their dens.
Reassure your pets, but don’t go overboard. You want to create the impression that everything is normal, so overdoing this can inadvertently cause more anxiety. You also need to stay calm - panicking will make your pets even more scared. Follow the lead of your pet and read their own individual needs. Some may be clingy, while others will want to hide or be alone. Let them.
Don’t get angry with them
Remember, the most important thing is to be supportive towards your pet. Understand that they are scared, and never shout at them or punish them for being frightened even if they do use the toilet indoors during this time.