As bonfire night approaches, animal welfare groups have issued warnings to pet owners: this can be a frightening and even dangerous time of year for pets. The main issue is the extremely common problem of pets being seriously spooked by the sound of fireworks.
This is the time of year that so many owners dread, when their normally happy pets suddenly become quivering wrecks, completely traumatised by fireworks. Bonfire Night might be just a single date on the calendar, but from October to New Year the night air is filled with bangs, crackles, and flashing lights as people host celebrations.
The Blue Cross animal rescue charity state that ‘animal hospitals across the country see a marked rise in pets requiring medication during such stressful times, and many pets are brought into Blue Cross rehoming centres having run away from home.’
Did you know, that firework noise can reach up to 150 decibels (as loud as a jet engine) and dogs, cats and other pets have hearing that's far more sensitive than our own. Animals have very acute hearing. Loud bangs and whistles may cause them actual pain in their ears. But by following these simple guidelines your pet need not suffer.
The British Veterinary Association has issued five top tips for 5 November.
Exercise your dog during the day ensures that you won't be walking around at night with the fireworks going off which would increase the chances of your dog becoming stressed. It will also tire them early, increasing the likelihood of them finding a quiet spot to sleep.
For cats that go out during the day, consider closing the cat flap a little earlier than usual. If they stay out for long periods of time or are hard to tempt indoors, you may want to keep them inside all day. It is not just the noises that can be stressing for a pet but it is also the flashes. Closing the blinds, curtains or shutters means they will only see a familiar space which will reduce the chances of stress.
Prepare a ‘den’ for your pet where it can feel safe and comfortable – perhaps under a bed with some of your old clothes. They may like to hide there when the fireworks start. Use pheromone products next to the den and around the home. These are scents that we can’t smell but reduce a pet’s stress.
Put on some music or turn your television up a little louder than normal as well to help muffle the sounds. Having some of your pet’s favourite toys laying around may also help them to focus on another activity rather than the noise.
Remain calm yourself. In the same way that children look to their parents and take cues from them, your pet will too. If you don’t seem bothered by the noise, then your cat or dog will feel more relaxed. Try not to reassure your pet as this often inadvertently reinforces anxious behaviour. Never punish your pet – remember, if they have a little accident in the house it’s not their fault.
Move small pets, such as rabbits and guinea pigs, to a quiet place indoors when fireworks are expected, and give them lots of bedding to mask the sounds.
It’s not just animals in the home that can be scared of fireworks - horses, cows, sheep and hens are too! The RSPCA share their tips for keeping your horses safe during firework season.
If you have a horse out in a field, check locally to see if there are going to be any firework displays in your area. Where possible - tell the organisers of firework displays that horses are nearby and ask them to set off their fireworks in the opposite direction.
Remember, this is a festive, happy time of year so make sure the whole family is happy by using these simple top tips. If you need specific advice suited to you and your pet, we advise talking to your vet.
We love this video for advice on Pets and Fireworks: