There has been a charity that has issued advice to the pet owners ahead of a stressful time of year for dogs and cats. Research from pet wellbeing charity, PDSA, has found that about 8 million cats and dogs are being affected by fireworks phobias in the UK – while around 37 % of dog and cat owners in Scotland reported that their pets are very scared of fireworks.
In advance of the Bonfire Night celebrations, the PDSA published a ‘fireworks ready’ action plan in order to help the pet owners manage their pets’ anxiety in the coming weeks. The charity also produced a checklist and special guidance for the people who have young pets on how to manage their first experience. Rebecca Ashman is the PDSA vet and she said: “Sadly, there are more than one-in-three cats and dogs in Scotland who are suffering distress because of fireworks, and their response could range from mild to very extreme.
“Many tremble and shake, they are unable to settle, destroy furniture, toilet in the house, and can even cause themselves physical injury when they panic, run away or try to escape.” She also added that “While we are not able to prevent fireworks to happen, the pet owners can take steps to reduce the anxiety of their pets. “Puppy and kitten owners also have the chance to prevent this phobia by including fireworks noises to their socialization and destination regime.
“Getting them used to fireworks noises could stop these fears to take hold in later life.”
10 tips from the PDSA for helping pets stay calm during fireworks
- Build a den for the pet somewhere where they are feeling safe. For dogs, this could be behind the sofa or under the table. Cover it with blankets and line with several pillows or cushions in order to help absorb the noise. The cats often feel safest when they are high up, so provide a safely secured, covered cat bed on top of your wardrobe or shelf in order to be their preferred option. Don’t force your pets to use it, but a praise or healthy treat when they do will help to build positive associations and it will encourage them to use it.
- You can use a sound CD with young pets, to help familiarize them with the noises of fireworks. Couple of months ahead is the best time, but even several weeks of preparation helps. At first, you can play on the lowest volume in some other room, and very gradually increase the volume and the duration as the times passes. Rewarding your pet when they are showing calm behaviors is the key, and in case they get anxious, stop immediately and go back one step.
- Ensure that the cats and dogs are microchipped and their registered details are up to date (this is a legal requirement for all dogs anyway) so that in case they run off in panic, to be quickly reunited with their owner. You should make a note of the dates of the local fireworks displays and just put a reminder in your phone in order to be able to prepare you and your pet. Stay at home with your pet and have plenty of toys and distractions at hand.
- Bring rabbit and guinea pig hutches indoors when there are fireworks. A car-free garage or shed is the perfect place. Provide a lot of extra bedding hay and cover the hutch with thick blankets in order to minimize the noise however make sure to not obstruct the air flow. For gerbils, hamsters and other small indoor pets, you need to move the cages away from windows and once again make sure they have plenty of bedding in order to be able to hide in case they’re frightened.