While this year, fireworks night may be a different one, but COVID won't stop people setting off fireworks in their gardens, so there will still be loud bangs for our beloved pets to deal with in the coming weeks. Our poor pets find fireworks particularly distressing as, unlike us, they don't know what the noise and bright lights are. This creates a high-stress situation and leads to a range of negative behaviours.
How do you know if your pet is stressed?
If your dog is trembling and shaking, clinging to you, barking excessively, cowering and hiding behind furniture, trying to run away, going to the toilet in the house, pacing and panting, refusing to eat or chewing furniture, then it's likely that they're feeling stressed.
Similarly, if cats are cowering and hiding behind or on top of furniture, trying to run away, going to the toilet around the house, instead of outside or in their litter box or refusing to eat, then the likelihood is that they're stressed. No one wants their pet to feel like this, so luckily, there are lots of simple things you can do to help your pet deal with fireworks and stop them from feeling this way.
Start early if you can
If you have a puppy, then it's a good idea to get them used to sounds such as fireworks early on. This way, when they hear real fireworks, they're more likely to feel calm and unafraid.
If your pet is older and already has a fear of fireworks, then you can still take action before fireworks night itself. You can play desensitisation sounds for your dog or cat to get them used to these kinds of noises gradually.
Make a note of when local fireworks displays are on so that you're prepared and can make sure you are there for your pet when they need you.
Walk during the day
Take your dog for a decent walk during the day, well before fireworks are due to begin so that you can avoid being outdoors when fireworks are likely to be set off.
Create a safe environment
Keep your doors and windows closed on fireworks night and draw the curtains to muffle the sound of fireworks. It's important that your pet feels safe, so comfort them as you would normally; however, if they are feeling stressed and would prefer to be on their own, then leave them be. Only make a fuss if they want it, and also remember to stay calm yourself.
Use other sounds to mask the fireworks
Having the TV on can be a good distraction as the noise can mask the sound of the fireworks. Alternatively, you could play music in the house; anything from repetitive beats to soothing music to calm your pet will work. You could even make a calming playlist for your pet.
Build a den
Building a little den for your pet will give them a place to hide where they feel safe. You could make a den for your dog behind a sofa in a quiet room or perhaps at the bottom of a cupboard. Give your dog treats when they go in it so they know its a positive place. Cover the den with blankets and line it with cushions to block out some of the noise. Don't force your pet to use it, though, as there might be somewhere else they would prefer to hide. Remember, if your pet wants to go and hide, then let them. Leave them be and don't try to comfort them as this is just their way of coping.
When it comes to cats, they often feel safest when they're high up. So a den on a shelf or the top of a cupboard could be ideal. A covered cat bed will help them feel protected, but just make sure that it is well secured so it won't fall off.
Calming products can really help, both in the build-up to firework season and during it. From room diffusers to collars and calming supplements, there are plenty to choose from. You can give multiple products in combination, providing they contain different ingredients that work in different ways. So have a look around to see what's right for your pet and speak to your vet if you're concerned and need some extra advice.
Don't forget about small animals
With smaller animals, it's a good idea to partly cover their outside cages and pens with blankets so that an area is soundproofed and hidden. Keep some of the uncovered, though, so they can look out if they want to. Also, provide them with extra bedding so that they can snuggle up, or you could even bring them indoors if you think it's necessary.