The sound and sight of fireworks is sudden and can scare pets, we do see an increase in the number of lost and found dogs during the fireworks season as pets become startled whilst out and become separated from their homes and owners. This page goes through things that you can do during the firework season to minimise distress and keep your pet safe.
Creating hiding places and ensuring your pet does not get lost:
- If animals are scared of something their automatic responses are either to run away or to hide and hope it goes away.
- It is therefore important that we make sure our pets can be identified if they do run off. Dogs and cats should wear collars with id tags (cats should wear easy release collars in case they get caught) and by microchipping them so that they can be scanned and reunited with you if found.
- Make sure that your house is escape-proof by keeping doors and windows shut. Cats and even some dogs can squeeze into surprisingly tight spots so block off any dangerous or unsuitable areas (when keeping cats indoors provide litter trays for them to toilet in).
- Pets will be less likely to run away if they have a safe and secure place to hide in. If your pet has somewhere they normally hide, make sure that they have access to this area throughout the firework season and reward the use of this area with treats or toys.
- For dogs, cupboards under stairs or tables covered with blankets or cloths to hide under are ideal. If your dog has a crate, covering it and leaving it open with blankets inside can help too. If your dog does not normally use a crate, do not try and use one during firework season. Get your dog used to going into the hiding place during the day by feeding him in it and placing treats inside. Some cats like boxes with blankets inside if the entrance is covered slightly with another blanket. They feel safer the higher up they can go so placing a box or two on top of shelves and cupboards may also help.
- It is important that you do not shut your pet in a confined area as it will injure itself if it is scared and tries to escape; allow access to all safe areas of the house.Preparing your house and changing your routines:
- It isn’t only the sound of the fireworks that worry pets. The flashes can upset them too. It is therefore important that you block out all windows and draw your curtains to avoid sudden light coming in. Keeping lights on in certain rooms and providing other dark areas in the house will give your pet the option of choosing where it feels safest. Allow your pet to wander around and choose an area it is comfortable in and do not follow your pet around.
- To reduce the impact of the sudden sounds fireworks make, you should keep a radio or television switched on. Music with strong beats and bass is ideal, and it should be played at a level your pet is happy with.
- Avoid taking pets out at times when fireworks are likely to be let off. Dogs should be walked when it is still light and if they need to be taken out again, try to wait until all fireworks have finished after 11pm. Be aware that on certain holidays such as New Year’s Eve, this may be much later.
- If your pet is not too worried by the fireworks, keep them occupied and focus their minds by playing with them or providing dogs with chews to alleviate tension. If they are too stressed, do not force them to interact.Your behaviour:
- The way we behave can have a strong impact on our pets. As humans, if we see our pets agitated our natural response is to try to comfort them. Unfortunately by doing this our pets will assume that we are also worried and become more anxious. If we act relaxed during firework season, our pets are more likely to relax too.
- If a pet is destructive or urinating or messes in the house, it is likely to be because of the fireworks and the stress they have caused. Getting annoyed or angry will only aggravate the situation and make the dog or cat more stressed and more likely to repeat the behaviour again. It is best to completely ignore them and act as though nothing has happened.
- If you are a cat owner and your cat is distressed, then avoid interacting with her or trying to pick her up as she may can suddenly lash out and be aggressive due to being stressed. It can take cats a long time to calm down so leave your cat to settle until the morning before interacting with her again.Medication and Alternative Therapies:There are products on the market that can help pets cope with stressful events and you should speak to your vet regarding the most suitable solutions for your individual pet. After the firework season:If your pet has shown a reaction to the fireworks, you should consult with your vet who can advise on what precautions to take the following year.
For more information on how to help your dog cope with fireworks there is an excellent Free downloadable handout that you can access by clicking here