Every year fireworks are set off, giving many animals anxiety and often – sadly – causing them to run away. Most animals have a very good sense of hearing meaning these fireworks seem louder to them than they do to us. Fortunately, there are plenty of things you can do to help your pet cope.
Symptoms that your pet is stressed include: looking alert with their ears pricked forward, pacing around, panting, increased heart rate, increased bowel movements with inappropriate urination and defecation, shaking, sweating, licking the lips, being vocal, hiding, and keeping their bodies close to the floor. It is very important that you are able to recognise the signs of stress – and remember, different pets may exhibit different behaviours.
It is vital that you ensure your pets are wearing their collars for ID and that any new pets have been microchipped. This ensures that if your pet does go missing then it is much more likely that they will be returned to you.
However, beyond this, different types of pets have very different requirements…
Small animals that live outdoors
If possible bring your animals’ cages inside a shed, garage or house. They need to be sheltered from the fireworks as much as possible in order to minimize the amount of stress they experience. You should add blankets as extra shelter and increase the amount of layering in their beds. This allows them to burrow and hide more easily if they want to. Be careful you do not add too many layers, though, as you do not want to overheat them.
Large outdoor animals
If you can, bring them into a stable or under shelter indoors. If they are used to being kept in larger groups, try to maintain the size rather than separating them as this could add to the stress rather than reducing it. Regularly check on your pets or stock – some animals benefit from human interaction and may become calmer in your presence. Make sure no fireworks are being set off near or in your animal’s field.
Pets that live indoors
Make sure they’re as comfortable as possible, and try not to add to their stress levels. If they are being vocal, do not shout at them. They will be very frightened and they will want and need your support and care. Try to refrain from trapping them in a room, allow them to pace and investigate where and when they want to. You should allow them to behave as they wish, given the stressful situation, and most importantly of all, praise calm behaviour. Some pets may become more relaxed from stroking but many will benefit most from being left alone – if you seem anxious to them, it’ll make them even more worried! You need to assess what your pet prefers.
Ensure your dog has been walked in the morning so you can avoid walking it after nightfall. If you do need to take your dog out during the evening then be sure to keep the pet on a lead. This ensures they cannot run away if spooked. Never assume your garden is escape proof either! You should ensure that all windows and doors remain shut where possible. This helps to muffle the noise and prevents forming an easy escape route for your pets. Drawing the curtains can help to keep your pet calm as it will block some of the light coming in. You could play calming music to help relax your pet.
Ensure all cats are brought inside during periods when you expect fireworks. You should check the local paper, notice boards and social media sites to ensure you are aware of when fireworks will be set off. Cats really enjoy hiding inside things such as boxes, so ensure you set up dark, small spaces which they can hide in.
For all species, making them a nice safe den can be really helpful – somewhere that they can hide safely away. Many cats and dogs respond well to pheromones so you could buy a plug in pheromone diffuser. Ensure their water bowl remains full as panting, sweaty stressed out animals will drink more in a short period of time. A lack of water will only worsen the situation.
It may be advisable to alter the feeding routine of your pet if they do become stressed when fireworks are set off. Feeding them earlier in the day could help to prevent irregular bowel movements which result in them making a mess indoors.
If you notice your animal is really stressed out, you should contact our vets for advice – in some situations, we can offer medication to help in the short term.