tips for pets – fireworks
One of the most troubling times of the year for pet owners is fireworks season.
The best way to approach something that your pets react negatively to is to be prepared.
If your pet reacts fearfully to loud noises, fireworks and the loud bangs that come along with it are going to be an issue.
Cats, being independent creatures, are far more likely to run away in terror and hide, leaving their owners entirely unaware of their distress. Cats don’t pace around, whining and barking. If they are terrified, they’re far less likely than dogs to bother their owners in any way.
At this time of year, it makes sense for pet guardians to be proactive about this subject: take a careful look at your pets, and make sure that they are definitely not distressed by the sounds of bangs and other fireworks outside.
The signs of distress can be subtle enough:
Cats may begin to “over groom” themselves (which can be likened to an anxious human chewing their nails).
Or they may dart around the house, and end up hiding under beds and in cupboards.
Cats may also nose lick, pant, and gasp when feeling anxious.
Perhaps the best way of assessing this is to ask yourself if your cat is behaving in a normal relaxed manner. If not, then they may be suffering from fear of fireworks noises, and you may be able to make them feel more comfortable with some simple steps.
The signs that your dog is becoming anxious include more obvious signs such as whining, crying, shaking, panting, running away and hiding, together with more subtle signs such as lip/nose licking, yawning when not tired, lifting a paw, turning away, flattening their ears, frowning, tightening around their mouths, tucking away their tail, salivating and pacing.
So what can you do?
Before fireworks season begins, get your pet microchipped and, if they already are, check your contact details are up to date. This is really important as it gives you the best chance of being reunited with your cat if they become spooked and get lost amid the bangs and crashes.
Taking your dog along to a firework display will not help them ‘get over’ their fear.
Make sure your dog has a long walk before the fireworks begin and has been to the toilet. So feed early on in the day.
Try not to go out while the fireworks are going off. Stay calm and act normally, your calm behaviour is a mental note to your pets that everything is okay.
Give lots of praise for calm behaviour.
Some people think that if you comfort a nervous or fearful dog you will reinforce his fear, but the opposite is actually true. A calming touch or just holding your dog close will make him feel safe.
It’s okay to cuddle and stroke your cat if it helps them relax, however… If your cat hides on top of cupboards or under furniture, leave him alone and do not try to coax him out. This is where he will feel most secure. It is important that your feline can access his favourite hidey hole at all times. Bought kitty hidey holes are great to help your feline feel safe and are easier for you to access for sprinkling catnip.
You can improvise with cardboard boxes, bits of string, feathers, ping-pong balls and hidden treats.
If your dog hides under the bed then this is where they probably feel the safest. Therefore, allow them this escape and don’t try to tempt or force them out. You can always make them a lovely snug den they can hide in and cover it in a blanket, fill it with old clothing you have worn, more bedding and some nice treats and toys. Leave your dog something fun to do – like a frozen Kong filled with his favourite treats.
You can introduce sounds to your pet in a controlled manner by using sound recordings.
It definitely helps to have a “pet friendly home”, with snug beds hidden in low-down places, and high-up perching posts for cats to survey the world below them.
Ensure your cat is provided with a litter tray both before and during the firework season. Your cat cannot be expected to go outside to toilet
Draw curtains to reduce the noise from outside and play music or have the TV on to help mask the noise of fireworks
On the evenings you expect fireworks, ensure cats and dogs are safely inside and secure doors, windows and cat flaps. It isn’t a safe time for pets to be out on their own.
Please don’t get angry with your pets if you they make a mess where they shouldn’t or miss the litter box during this time. Even the most well trained pet can have a mishap on a fireworks night. Shouting at a frightened pet will only make them more stressed, so rather clean up the mess and continue with your evening.
If you have established that your pet has a fearful reaction to loud noises, speaking to a communicator or behaviourist can be beneficial. Every pet is different and they will have new “tools” for you to assist your pets effectively.
Going further a holistic vet can be helpful before deciding on going the full meditative route. Your vet will be able to offer short-term solutions such as calming diets, supplements, medication.
There are two canine wraps on the market that reportedly help sound phobic dogs. The original Anxiety Wrap (a bandage can be used) was invented by professional dog trainer Susan Sharpe, CPDT-KA. The patented design uses acupressure and maintained pressure to reduce stress. The thundershirt is also a wrap for your dog that provides gentle, constant pressure. Their website reports that over 85% of Thundershirt users see significant improvement in noise anxiety symptoms. Most dogs respond with the very first usage; some need 2-3 usages before showing significant improvement.
If your pet has a fear of fireworks, don’t let them suffer in silence. Observe them carefully, and with some simple, thoughtful steps, you should be able to help them through this time of year.
If you are worried that your pet is taking a long time to recover from the firework festivities, speak to a communicator or behaviourist to help you through their anxiety.
A note to those participating in displays, think about your neighbours and how your revelry might affect any pets they may have. There are always public firework displays to attend and other ways you can still have lots of fun and enjoy the festive season ahead.
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