Fireworks can cause stress, anxiety and even aggression in pets. Keep reading for our top tips to prepare them for fireworks season.
Fireworks are a key part of seasonal celebrations, including Bonfire Night, Diwali and New Year’s Eve. While they can be fun for us, our pets tend to have a different view; 40% of pet owners say their pet is scared of fireworks, according to the charity PDSA.
Thankfully, there are lots of simple ways you can ease their stress around fireworks. Here are our top tips for preparing your pet for fireworks season.
1. Create a safe space for your pet
Creating a safe space in your house gives your pet somewhere calm and familiar to retreat to when they get scared. Fill a quiet room or corner with food and water bowls, their favourite toys and bedding to create a pet-friendly haven.
It’s important not to confine them to this area, however, as this can make them feel even more stressed. Instead, let them go wherever they feel safest indoors.
2. Provide plenty of hiding spaces
The average home is full of great hiding spots for a pet – under the bed or behind the sofa, for example. Make sure you provide plenty of places they can safely hide away from the noise. This is particularly important for cats.
If they do decide to take refuge throughout the house, keep an eye on where they are to avoid shutting them in and cutting them off from other areas of the house.
3. Walk dogs early
If you usually go for an evening or late-night walk, switch up your routine and head out early to avoid being outside when the fireworks start. Even if they don’t normally show fear around fireworks, dogs can be easily startled by loud, unexpected bangs while outside.
Gradually alter your normal walking routine about a week before fireworks occasions to get your dog used to the change. Be sure to keep them on a lead at all times during fireworks season; startled dogs can often run off without warning.
4. Consider bringing rabbit hutches indoors
Due to their sensitive nature, outdoor rabbits suffer the most when it comes to fireworks. Your best option is to bring their hutch inside during fireworks season, whether it be in the house, garage or shed. This provides a solid barrier from the noise outside and helps reduce their stress levels. Not only that, but it also protects them from any falling sparks or firework shrapnel.
If you’re unable to bring them inside, lay a few thick blankets over their hutch to help muffle the bangs and keep them calm. Don’t forget to leave a suitable gap for ventilation.
5. Invest in a pheromone adaptor
Pheromone sprays and adaptors can help ease pet stress and anxiety, so placing a few throughout your home can be a good way to keep them calm.
Your vet will be able to help you choose an option that best suits your pet.
6. Close windows, curtains and blinds
Keeping your windows closed can help muffle loud noises and prevents your pet from escaping if they decide to flee. You may also want to close any curtains or blinds to further soundproof your home and shut out bright flashes and sparks that can scare pets. Don’t forget to also lock any cat flaps to prevent your cat from getting outside.
7. Give rabbits extra bedding
Rabbits tend to burrow when they get scared, so popping some extra bedding into their hutch gives them plenty to hide in and helps them feel protected against the noise.
You may also want to give them some extra hideaways, such as a ventilated cardboard box filled with hay, to ensure they have lots of opportunities to take refuge from the fireworks.
8. Stay at home
Your presence will help soothe your pet’s fears, so avoid going out during fireworks. If left alone without comfort, your pet may become stressed and destructive in your absence.
Remember to keep talking to your pet and give them plenty of love and attention during the fireworks. Knowing you’re there to protect them will reassure them and help calm them down.
9. Turn up the radio or TV
Turning on the radio or TV not only helps mask the loud bang and crackle of fireworks, but also provides a familiar noise to help distract your pet. Play calming music or turn on a programme you watch regularly to help reassure your pet that everything’s alright.
10. Give them a treat
A tasty treat can make a world of difference to your pet’s stress levels and it’ll also reward their good behaviour and bravery. A stuffed chew toy can keep dogs occupied for hours, while a treat puzzle ball can have the same effect on cats and rabbits. These stimulating toys help take their mind off what’s going on around them and can even help them forget their fears.
11. Make sure they’re microchipped
Spooked pets can run away, especially cats, so make sure they’re properly microchipped to make them easily identifiable if they do. If your pet’s already microchipped, make sure your contact details are up to date so you can be contacted straight away.
General firework safety
Don’t forget to store fireworks well out of the way of any pets and dispose of used fireworks safely and securely. The morning after a nearby fireworks display, check your garden for any fallout or shrapnel which may pose a risk. Fireworks contain highly toxic ingredients that can be fatal to your pet if accidentally eaten, so remember to stay extra vigilant during firework season.
Desensitising your pet
While it’s probably too late for this year’s fireworks season, you may want to start desensitising your pet against fireworks in time for 2020’s celebrations.
Desensitising your pet is often the best way to help them cope with loud, frightening sounds. To do this, expose them to recordings of fireworks over a period of a few months while they’re happily distracted (feeding time is a good opportunity). Keep the sessions to around 10 minutes and start by playing them quietly as background noise. If your pet remains calm, gradually increase the volume in their subsequent sessions until you reach the loudest volume. Depending on your pet’s level of fear, this can be a very slow process, so remember to be patient and never force it.
For more advice on desensitising pets against fireworks, speak to your vet.