There’s nothing more spectacular than a fireworks display to bring in the New Year. We may love them, but many of our pets don’t. For our sensitive-eared pets, it’s a terrifying experience; explosions, bangs and bright flashes can cause stress and anxiety.
Thankfully, there are many simple things that we can do to ease our pet’s distress around fireworks. Here are our tips to try and make them more comfortable.
- Walk your dog early
If you usually go for an evening or late-night walk, try to head out early to avoid being outside when the fireworks start. Even if they don’t normally show fear around fireworks, dogs can easily be 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 always keep them on a lead during fireworks season; startled dogs can often run off without warning!
- Keep your pet indoors
It may sound obvious but keep your pet inside when the fireworks are going off. Keeping windows closed can help muffle loud noises and prevents pets from escaping if they decide to flee. Close any curtains or blinds to help 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! If you have a dog or horse and must leave them outside in an area where it is likely that there will be fireworks, then double–check; even triple–check your fences and gates. Fireworks really spook dogs and horses, and many go missing around the holidays due to the combination of fireworks and poorly maintained fencing.
- Stay at home
Don’t leave your pets alone in the house; ask a friend to look after your pets or take your dog to doggy day-care if you’re going to be out. Like humans, pets often prefer to seek comfort in company when they’re scared. Left alone, your pet could become very stressed and destructive in your absence.
- Create a safe space
Creating a safe space in your home gives your pet a calm and familiar place to retreat to when they get scared. Fill a room or corner with food and a water bowl, their favourite toys, and bedding to create a pet-friendly haven. Some dogs may appreciate an open crate with blankets and a toy inside or a pile of blankets under a table. Cats will usually hide when they are scared, so ensure their favourite hiding place is accessible. Don’t be tempted to coax them out as it’s best to act normal and ignore fearful behaviour. Don’t forget to provide your feline friend with a litter tray! It’s important not to confine pets to their safe space as this can make them feel even more stressed. You should just let them go wherever they feel safest. Scared cats prefer to be left alone, don’t try to pick them up or restrain them as there’s always the risk that they could hurt you if you attempt to cuddle them while they’re stressed.
- Turn on 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 pet. Play calming music or turn on a programme you watch regularly to help reassure your pet that everything’s alright. Remember to keep talking to your pet, knowing you’re there to protect them will reassure them and keep them calm.
- 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. These stimulating toys help take their mind off what’s going on around them and can even help them forget their fears.
- Act normal
Our furry friends are very perceptive and if they notice you’re behaving unusually (like following them around or being overly affectionate) they’ll sense something is up. If they see that the fireworks have no effect on you, this may help decrease their anxiety.
- Make sure your pets are microchipped
Spooked pets can run away, especially cats, ensure 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.
- Synthetic Pheromones
Spray a calming pheromone diffuser or collar – Feliway and Adaptil offer great products to help calm your pets in times of stress. They provide products with a comforting scent that your pet will associate with weaning as a puppy or a safe place for cats where they rub their cheeks. These devices should be introduced into your home a week or two before fireworks to ensure optimal results. You can ask your vet what product would be best suited to your pet.
- General fireworks safety
Fireworks can be dangerous and pose a high fire risk. When lighting fireworks, it’s your responsibility to make sure you’re using them safely. Don’t forget to store fireworks well out of the way of any pets and dispose of used fireworks safely and securely. Be considerate of your pet, and other people’s pets, and do not light off fireworks in areas where there are dogs, cats, horses, or farm animals nearby. 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 the fireworks season.
If your pet is still extremely stressed by fireworks after following our advice, it is best to see your veterinarian for professional advice. Many pets need calming medication over Christmas and New Year as their anxiety levels can become extremely high.