It’s that time of year where exciting celebrations start to get into full swing, from Halloween and bonfire night to New Year's Eve, and everything in between. We know just how much fireworks especially can take a toll on your pets - they might feel stressed, anxious, or scared by the unfamiliar noises we hear around this time each year.
We’ve put together a useful guide with some tips to make your dog or cat feel more comfortable and relaxed, and how to prepare for firework season in advance.
Why are our pets scared of fireworks?
Not all dogs and cats will get scared of fireworks, but a study by the RSPCA shows that a significant proportion do – with 62% of dogs and 54% of cats showing signs of fear.
Some reasons our pets might be frightened are:
- The loud noises and bright lights
- The fact that they're unpredictable and can be heard at various times through the evening and night
- They pose a threat
- They can make some animals feel trapped
Our in-house vet, Martin, says: “Put yourself in your pet’s paws and just imagine how scary it must be to hear loud noises, and see bright flashes of light, whilst not having a clue as to what is going on”.
Preparing for firework season
Preparation is often key, and you can never be too prepared to equip your dog or cat with the right tools and environments to feel at ease.
How to prepare your dog
Escape proof your house and garden
Check your gates, fences, and boundaries to make sure everything is fully secure, and there’re no escape routes. You could even take your dog out into the garden on a lead if you’re concerned they could escape. Also ensure your windows and doors are kept closed to minimise noise.
Desensitise your dog to the sounds
Dogs Trust have some free downloadable sounds and tracks to help desensitise your dog to the noises they might expect to hear. You can use these sounds all year round for maximum preparation, or start as far in advance of the autumn season as possible.
Go for a walk in daylight
Be sure to head out for your daily walk with your dog before the evening darkness rolls in. This will also ensure they will be tired post-walk and should feel more relaxed.
Feed your dog
It’s a good idea to ensure your dog eats before it gets loud and noisy outside. If they’re scared, they might not feel up to eating much.
Create a den or safe space
This can be anywhere your dog feels comfortable or safe. Perhaps under a table or in a nook, or create a den around their bed or usual resting place. Make sure there are lots of things to make them feel at ease - teddies, cushions, blankets, and even you for some comfort.
Microchip and tag details are up to date
Check that your dog’s microchip and collar tag details are fully up to date (especially if you have recently moved house, or changed phone numbers).
Get some calming products
Calming plug-in diffusers, room sprays and treats can often help, or you could try a hoodie or jumper designed to go over your dog's ears (they'd need to get used to wearing these in advance).
How to prepare your cat
Bring your cat indoors
Before it gets dark, it might be a good idea to ensure your cat is inside the house before any fireworks or outside noise starts.
Use a litter tray
Your cat might not want to venture outside to use the toilet, so bring it inside with a litter tray (ensure they’re litter trained in advance).
Get their favourite things ready
Make sure there are lots of things to make your cat feel at ease – their favourite toys, beds, cushions, blankets. You could also create a cosy nook or hiding place if they don’t already have one (making one from a cardboard box and some blankets is a quick and easy option!).
Microchip and tag details are up to dateCheck that your cat's microchip and collar tag details are fully up to date (especially if you have recently moved house, or changed phone numbers).
My pet is still scared, what should I do?
If your dog or cat is still afraid of the fireworks and outside noise, despite trying out some of the above tips and ensuring you’re prepared, seek the advice of your vet or an animal behaviourist.
It may be that there is an underlying condition, or they may need longer-term treatment to overcome any fears. Your pet may be prescribed medicated or behavioural therapy to help in the longer-term.
Our in-house vet, Martin, advises: “For the best and longest lasting results, discussions with your vet regarding dealing with fireworks should ideally begin several months in advance of firework season”.