When it comes to scary times of the year for your family, you might think of Halloween. Ask your pet the same question, and they would probably tell you it’s Bonfire Night.
For dogs and cats, the deafening bangs, fizzes and pops of fireworks can be terrifying. And, it doesn’t tend to just last for one night but can carry on over the course of a week. Sometimes longer.
If your pet is one of the 40% of pets who are scared of fireworks, according to a PDSA survey, this can be a tough time of year for them. The fear factor for cats and dogs can range from being slightly on edge to full-blown phobia.
Don’t just spring these new ideas on your pet on the same night as the explosions begin. Preparation is key! You can do some things to help your pet get ready for Fireworks Night and limit their stress as much as possible.
Prepare the house
A hiding spot for your dog
Build your dog a den in the quietest part of your house. Somewhere like the cupboard under the stairs or places away from windows. Make it dark, cosy, and comfortable. Prepare the den well before Fireworks Night and begin to get your dog used to the space. It might be a good place to put their bed. Put their favourite treats and toys in the area.
A place for your cat
You can do the same for your cat and try to encourage them to use it. Make it high up if you can. Cats tend to feel far more secure if they can hide in an elevated place. Perhaps at the top of a cupboard. Make sure it’s easy for them to get to and a safe spot.
Provide a litter tray in your house, so your cat doesn’t have to go outside and doesn’t have the added stress of nowhere to toilet. Don’t forget to shut the cat flap! You should be keeping your pets inside over the fireworks period anyway.
Don’t forget the small furries!
Consider bringing your rabbits or guinea pigs into your house in a pet carrier. Get them used to this new routine regularly during October. Again, choose a space for them in the quietest part of the house.
If you can’t do that, muffle the explosion noises by covering their house with blankets and covers. Leave a little spot for them to peak out and see what is going on if they want to. Give them lots of extra bedding to snuggle into.
Music for relaxation
By playing some loud music or tv, you can mask some of the explosion noises. Obviously, respect your pet’s sensitive hearing, so don’t turn it up to the same level of noise as a nightclub! Some behaviourists believe classical music can help dogs to relax when their owners aren’t at home. It could be a good choice for Bonfire Night too.
Consider downloading a desensitisation soundtrack. These play loud bangs, fireworks, thunder sounds and other noises that pets find scary. By playing these to your pet throughout the year, you may be able to get them used to the sounds and bring down their sensitivity levels.
If you have a puppy or kitten, play these sounds from the start when they feel safe and comfortable. You may be avoiding any problems with firework noises in the future.
Pheromones and alternative remedies
Pheromones come in sprays and plug-ins. They work by releasing a calming pheromone scent into your house. You won’t be able to smell it, but your pet will. Start using these a few weeks before the fireworks begin.
If your pet is genuinely phobic about fireworks, you may need to consider medication for them. Speak to your vet and discuss what is best for your pet.
Give up your social life
Be prepared to give up your social life around Bonfire Night. Your pet will draw comfort from your presence, so make sure you are near them. If they want to cuddle up to you, let them do this.
If they would rather hide away, this is fine too. But, make sure you are nearby, and don’t leave them at home alone.
For some pets, the stress of Bonfire Night may just be too much for you to handle without professional help. Speak to your vet if you are worried. They will be able to refer you to a clinical animal behaviourist.
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