According to the PDSA, around 40% of cat and dog owners report that their pet is afraid of fireworks. While many of us enjoy the different sights and sounds during firework season, they can be scary for many animals. With this in mind, check out some ways you can help your dog, cat, and even your horse cope better with fireworks.
Why are our pets scared of fireworks?
Pets have heightened senses
As cats and dogs are natural hunters, they are much more sensitive to sounds and their environment. For instance, the bangs, high-pitched sounds, flashes, and the unusual smell from fireworks can be very frightening for them.
Fireworks are unpredictable
As fireworks can come without warning, your pet does not have much of a chance to prepare or even get used to them! We all know how disturbing a loud noise can be when we are trying to settle down in bed but imagine how bad that would be if it went on all night!
Fireworks present a change in your pet’s environment
Firework season presents a significant change in your pet’s environment. If your pet’s behaviour changes in reaction to fireworks, try to stay calm and composed. Pets can pick up on negative signals, therefore, ensure that you stay positive.
While it may feel impossible to calm your pet during firework season, there are simple measures that can help them cope over a potentially stressful period.
How can you tell that your dog is stressed?
Some of the ways that your dog may show it’s stressed include:
- Excessive panting when your dog has not exercised.
- Drooling or licking excessively.
- Shaking or pacing.
- Putting their tail between their legs.
- Long and intense yawning.
If your dog is showing signs that it is anxious during firework season, consider employing some calming measures.
How to calm your dog during fireworks
Desensitising your dog
Getting your dog used to loud sounds is regarded as one of the best long-term solutions for managing firework-related stress. By desensitising your dog to loud noises over a period, you can teach it to associate the sound of fireworks with something positive (Source: Battersea). There are online tools and programmes you can use although, this therapy takes time and patience. If you are reading this the evening before Bonfire Night or New Years’ Eve, then you should take a look at our short-term options for keeping your dog calm.
Walk your dog during daylight hours. This will help reduce the chance of you being out with your pooch when fireworks are going off. Some people may let fireworks off earlier in the day (especially on Bonfire Night), therefore if your dog is easily spooked, keep it on a lead.
There’s always a risk that your dog may escape during fireworks. Ensure your dog is microchipped, as you’ll be reunited much easier if it is. Microchipping has been a legal requirement in the UK since 6th April 2016.
Create a safe place
Create a place for your dog to shelter during fireworks. Drape your table with a blanket to create a space where it feels secure. If your dog is crate trained, cover it, and leave it open with blankets inside. These hiding places should help your dog feel less stressed during what can be a scary time.
Don’t show you’re worried
Don’t show you are worried as this can make your dog feel more stressed. Praise it for calm behaviour and carry on with your normal routine.
Help distract your dog’s mind by keeping it busy. Play games, give it a chew toy, and carry out some reward-based training.
Mask the sound of fireworks
Mask the sound of fireworks by keeping the radio or tv on. Classical music can help keep your dog calm. Music with a higher bass will assist in disguising the loud bangs.
Remember, every dog is different. What may have worked for your next-door neighbour’s dog may not work for yours. Try a combination of techniques; targeted at reducing stress in your dog, and then decide what works best.
Signs that your cat is stressed by fireworks
Even the most confident cats can struggle with the sound of fireworks. Stressed cats typically display the following symptoms:
- Excessive grooming.
- Hiding or appearing withdrawn.
- Eating or drinking less than usual.
- Pacing or restfulness.
Although it can feel worrying when your cat is stressed, measures can be taken to help your cat manage its anxiety during firework season.
How to keep your cat calm during fireworks
Desensitising your cat
Desensitising your cat occurs in a similar way it would for dogs. When your cat is in its haven, start to play fireworks audio at a low level. Gradually increase the volume and treat and interact with your cat each moment the volume increases. Over time, this therapy should help your cat become more accustomed to fireworks. As mentioned previously, desensitisation happens over a long period consequently, it is not a short-term solution.
Keep your cat indoors
Try to keep your cat in the house at night during firework season. If your cat is used to going outside at all hours, provide a litter tray.
Provide a safe space
Cats can feel a lot better if they have a safe space to retreat. Place their favourite bed in an enclosed and quiet area away from doors and windows. Position some extra toys and blankets in their safe zone or use catnip as a tempting distraction.
Cats can pick up on their human’s emotions. So, try to stay as composed as possible, as this can help put your cat at ease.
Distract your cat
Play with toys to distract your cat. If you’re using diversion methods, your cat should have less time to think about the loud bangs and more time to consider the fluffy items in front of it.
Consider using a plug-in pheromone diffuser
Pheromone diffusers contain synthetic chemicals which mimic naturally occurring pheromones that are known to soothe cats. There are many pheromone diffusers available to purchase on the market.
What about signs of stress in horses?
We have spoken about dogs and cats being frightened by fireworks, but did you know larger animals such as horses can also become stressed by them?
Common signs of stress in horses include:
- Tail swishing.
- Repetitive head movements.
- Decreased appetite.
- Flared nostrils.
Horses are considered flight animals and generally will try to remove themselves from a stressful or scary situation. If your horse goes into flight mode, it could cause an injury. Nonetheless, you can help to mitigate this risk by considering ways to reduce the anxiety caused by fireworks.
How to keep your horse calm during fireworks
Desensitising your horse
You can use the recordings used to desensitise cats and dogs to help your horse get used to the sound of fireworks. Play recordings alongside your horse doing something it loves, gradually increasing the volume. The aim is to help your horse become comfortable with the sound of fireworks over time.
Research the local area
Try to ensure that fireworks aren’t set off near your horse’s field or stable. If there are local displays, ask the organisers to set off the fireworks well away from the horses.
Keep your horse in a familiar environment
Keep your horse in the environment it’s most familiar. If your horse is usually stabled, then keep it stabled. Similarly, if your horse is typically outside on the field, keep it there so long as you know it is a confined area that is secure and away from any displays.
Keep an eye on your horse
Ensure that there is someone at the yard during the fireworks or someone who can do regular checks. Keep yourself calm and stay a safe distance away from your horse if it does become agitated (Source: Rossdales Veterinary Surgeon).
Playing music can have a soothing effect on your horse and mask some of the noise outside. Maybe your horse is a fan of the classics?
Most horse owners try to avoid sedation as it can lead to your horse being more stressed during the next firework season. However, horses are big and powerful, and if your horse is anxious or stressed, sedation may be necessary, so it doesn’t injure itself or others. Your vet will be able to give the best advice on this.
For some pets, fireworks can cause so much stress, that even your efforts to calm them can feel ineffective. If this is the case, we would advise seeking professional advice from a vet.
Animals are unpredictable by nature and sometimes you just don’t know how they will react to situations that they find scary. In case something does go wrong over the festive period, you could insure your pet against accidents. Get a quote for pet insurance or horse insurance today.
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