Many pets are understandably frightened of the bangs and flashes that accompany fireworks. Find out how you can help prepare them this season.
Preparing dogs and cats
- Keep your cat indoors at night during fireworks season, be sure to provide them with a litter tray and escape-proof the house by closing windows, doors and cat flaps securely.
- Help your pet by creating a comforting ‘den’ where they can hide. This could be inside a wardrobe or cupboard, or behind a sofa. Cats tend to feel safer higher up, so on a shelf or cupboard might be a good spot.
- Pad it with old pillows and blankets to soundproof it. In the weeks leading up to firework season, give your pet access to this den at all times. You can also make it more desirable by adding their favourite toys.
- Don’t force your pet to go into the den you’ve made if they prefer a different hiding place.
- Give healthy treats and praise when your pet uses it to build a positive association.
- Use a pheromone plug-in nearby. Pheromones are scents that calm animals but we can’t smell them, they’re available from most pet shops.
What should I do on bonfire night?
- Take your dog for a walk during daylight, well before fireworks are due to begin.
- Keep all doors, windows and cat and dog flaps closed.
- Let cats hide where they like – do not try to tempt them out.
- Don’t pick up cats or restrain them if they are scared: cats prefer to control how they cope.
- Draw the curtains.
- Play music with a repetitive beat to help mask the sounds. Classic FM have teamed up with the RSPCA to create two Pet Classics programmes. Both shows will feature the most soothing and comforting classical music, handpicked by Classic FM to help calm and settle any anxious pets.
- Try not to comfort or reassure your pets, even though it’s tempting. They will feel your anxiety and meaning their fear will be rewarded and encouraged.
- Never punish your pets - it’s not their fault they’re scared, and it adds to their anxiety.
- Ensure your pets are microchipped, and the chip is kept up-to-date, so if they escape from the home, there is more chance you will be reunited.
How to help your pet in the long-term
As well as helping your pet on the night, pets that are scared of fireworks and other loud noises can be treated for their fear using effective behavioural techniques. It takes time and patience but can achieve excellent results. Tell your vet about your pet’s fear of loud noises, they’ll thoroughly check there isn’t a medical reason, e.g. thyroid disease. Your vet may recommend behavioural therapy, or suggest referral to a veterinary behaviourist or a pet behaviour counsellor. Behavioural therapy often uses a technique called ‘desensitisation and counter-conditioning’. Over time, this teaches your pet that loud noises are nothing to be afraid of.
Sometimes medication prescribed by a vet is used to help with the behavioural therapy. Owners sometimes ask vets to prescribe tranquillisers for their pet, however, some drugs that were once popular are no longer used as they don’t reduce fear, just an animal’s ability to respond. This can make a pet’s fear of fireworks even worse.
What can I do to help small pets and wildlife?
- Partly cover hutches and outdoor cages with blankets so they’re more sound-proofed.
- Make sure your pets have hiding places and secure areas where they feel safe.
- Give plenty of bedding – this helps keep noise out and provides a hiding place.
- Ensure the bonfire is nowhere near any pets.
- Hedgehogs may think an unlit bonfire is a great place to sleep. So, build the fire as late as possible and disturb it around the bottom before lighting to let any wildlife escape.