November can be a particularly stressful time for pets – the loud sudden bangs and pops produced by fireworks can reduce many animals to nervous wrecks. The good news is there’s lots we can do to prepare them and reduce that anxiety.
Signs of stress in cats:
- Hiding away behind or on top of furniture
- Trying to run away
- Soiling or urinating in the house
- Refusing meals
Signs of stress in dogs:
- Tension in body, tail clamped/between legs
- Trembling and shaking
- Whining and/or barking
- Hiding away under or behind furniture
- Trying to run away
- Messing in the house
- Restlessness, unable to settle
- Refusing meals
Signs of an anxious rabbit:
- Thumping back feet
- Frozen in fear – motionless
- Trying to frantically dig / escape
What can I do to prepare?
Many dogs and cats will try to hide when they hear fireworks – help them by creating a special hiding place where they can feel safe and cope with their fear.
Pet dens are brilliant. This could be inside a pet crate, wardrobe or cupboard, or behind a sofa. Pad it with old pillows and blankets to help soundproof it. In the weeks leading up to firework season let your pet have access to this den at all times. Encourage your pet to explore it and make it a sweet spot for them by offering treats and praise when your pet uses it.
A pheromone product like Adaptil or Feliway may help here – a plug in diffuser used nearby may help. These pheromones are calming scents that dogs and cats can detect which may help them to feel more secure.
Your pet may already have a preferred hiding place – our old lurcher Charlie sometimes hid in a tiny cupboard under our stairs – make sure they have access to this spot if that’s where they want to be.
Ensure dogs and cats are microchipped so that if they escape from the house, scared and confused, there is more chance you will be reunited.
Desensitise your pet to fireworks. Starting in the weeks leading up to November play them fireworks sound effects for 30 minutes before meals or a walk on a daily basis. Start with the volume low and as the days pass gradually increase the volume. We’ve prepared some tracks for you- simply download and play on your MP3 player:
or pop into the surgery and pick up a free CD (or download it here – http://mhill.vet/fireworkscd)
Remember, there are a few cases of such severe anxiety that medication may be required to keep them safe. Speak to us at the surgery about possible short term medication such as Xanax, ACP, propanalol and phenobarbitone.
And on the nights when the fireworks will be in full swing:
- Obviously (hopefully!) don’t take your animal to bonfire or firework displays. They will be terrified and it may cause serious phobias in the future
- Ensure cats are indoors well before dark and take your dog for a long walk well before fireworks are likely to begin
- More pets run away at this time of the year than any other time, so once indoors, ensure pets can’t escape by keeping doors, windows and cat flaps closed
- Allow your pet to hide in their den or own hiding place if they desire and don’t try to tempt them out
- Draw the curtains
- Play music to help mask the sounds
- Although it’s tempting, do not excessively reassure your pets, just stay calm and keep the mood as normal as possible.
- For dogs, try putting on a Thundershirt or a snug fitting coat – this can help give a feeling of security and was one tactic which worked really well for Mr Charlie!
- If cats are scared, do not pick up or restrain them as cats prefer to control how they cope
- Use anxiety relieving pheromones such as Adaptil for dogs or Feliway for cats – these are available in plug-in diffusers, collars and sprays to suit your own situation.
Small pets and wildlife:
- Bring hutches inside or into a shed/garage if possible, if not, partly cover hutches and other outside cages with blankets so that they have some sound-proofing
- Make sure hutches and cages contain hiding places and secure areas where they can go to feel safe
- Give plenty of bedding – this will help keep noise out and provide a hiding place.
- If you are having your own bonfire ensure it is nowhere near any pets.
- Always check underneath a bonfire before lighting as hedgehogs may be hibernating there.
Best of luck, and remember you can always drop in to get more advice. In severe cases we have on site fully qualified animal behaviourist Zoe Waddoups who can give detailed specific help.