Help your pets feel safe during fireworks
Last month, we talked about building a pet ‘safe haven’: a place to make our pets feel safe and cosy during stressful events. With Bonfire Night only two days away, here are some additional tips to help your pets cope with anxiety.
How can you help?
During firework season, preparation is key. Walking dogs during daylight will help them relax at home later in the evening. And if your cats are out during the day, keeping them indoors when the fireworks are about to be set off will ensure they remain safe.
If you haven't microchipped your pet, now's a good time to do so. Not only is microchipping dogs required by law, but it can also make finding a lost pet possible.
By planning well in advance, you can help your pet become used to the sound of fireworks or other fearful noises. For instance, by exposing them to these sounds (perhaps by playing a CD or video) every day for a period of time. Start on low volume (just so they can barely hear it) and increase the volume gradually over time. It can take some time for your pet to become desensitised, but it's a start in helping them overcome their fear of noises.
If your pet is showing signs of stress, calming products can assist in making them feel more at ease. ADAPTIL Calm Home Diffuser for dogs works by releasing synthetic feel-good pheromones, and should ideally be used 2 to 3 weeks prior to the event. For further support, ADAPTIL Express tablets provide a calming effect by administering 2 hours before the event.
Feliway for cats also releases pheromones that our kitties perceive as reassuring messages. Their diffusers and calming sprays are popular amongst cat owners. They're gentle, non-sedative and can be used alongside other medication.
As for small furries − they can find the firework season stressful, too. Remember to bring outside hutches in where possible, adding extra bedding so your pet can bury down and get cosy. If the hutches stay outside, cover them with thick blankets to block out sounds while allowing ventilation.
The day of the event
As soon as the noises start, your pet will want to make a dash for it. Ensure there's a quiet room or hiding place they can go to. Sometimes, even some empty furniture or cupboard space filled with cushions and blankets will make them feel protected.
Keep windows and doors closed, and draw curtains to help block out the sound and flashing lights of fireworks. You can also provide a distraction, like putting the TV or radio on during the event.
It's never a good idea to punish or over pamper your pets for being scared and behaving unpredictably. If anything, this can increase the anxiety. Understand that it's hard for them to process what’s happening and try to ignore any fearful behaviour. Try to behave normally, as your dog will pick up on any odd behaviour. Remain calm and cheerful, as this will send positive signals to your dog, reassuring him. Reward calm behaviour with dog treats or their favourite toys.
Bonfires can be fatal for wild animals such as wood mice and hedgehogs. This is because a pile of leaves and wood can seem an attractive nesting place. We would suggest building your bonfire on the day it will be lit − and shaking the branches and leaves in case there are animals hiding inside.
As much as 30% of the UK hedgehog population has disappeared since 2002 alone, so our role in helping them stay safe is important.
All precautions taken, we hope the firework season goes smoothly for everyone at home: furry friends included! It breaks our hearts to see our pets scared. This is why good preparation is essential.
Do you have other tips to help calm down a nervous pet? Let us know!