At this time of the year, kids enjoy Halloween and families enjoy fireworks. The end of October and the beginning of November is a festive time for all of us but not so much for our pets and surrounding wildlife. Fireworks are feared by many pets and cause them a lot of stress. The anxiety caused by the big bangs can lead your pets to behave differently and sometimes worryingly. For instance, Gin (my ginger tabby) will run and hide. If he is indoors, it will be under someone’s bed. No matter what you do, he will not come out and he will stay like this for hours. Now this is fine, because I know where he is and he might be scared but he is safe. What about if he was outside?
I’m going to give you a few tips here on how to keep your animals safe when the fireworks are going off. If you are a seasoned pet owner, you probably know all of these points but if this is the first time your pet will be exposed to fireworks, I hope the following are of some use.
· The most important thing is keeping them indoors. Your cat might be yowling to go out but trust me, there is no better place to be than inside their own home when fireworks are on. Ensure that all windows and doors are closed as you don’t want them escaping. Each year, many pets go missing due to fireworks. They can panic and run in a random direction and can become lost.
· If for whatever reason your pet is outdoors in the garden (e.g. rabbits in a rabbit hutch), make sure they are secure. Hutches should be secured, partially covering with a cloth can help muffle the noise and make your bunny feel more secure. Rabbits should also be given a place to hide. For some reason, my rabbits do not react to fireworks. The same applies for other small animals that you have outside. Avoid walking dogs when fireworks are likely to be going off. If you must, keep them on the lead and be prepared for scared dogs to run.
· Have your pet microchipped so that if they do escape, they can be returned to you. If you do not have your pet chipped, you can use a collar with your telephone number and address attached. Using a collar will also speed up the process in which lost pets are returned. Reflective collars are best so that cars at night will be better able to see an animal.
· When a firework goes off, a scared animal will most likely run to a hiding place. Do not block off these hiding places as your pet feels safest there when scared. The best thing you can do is leave them alone and go about your evening as you usually do. You do not want to appear concerned about your pet as they would pick up on those feelings and that would reinforce to them that fireworks are really something worth getting worked up over. Some animals can be more aggressive when scared and this is a natural flight-fight response so do not provoke them by picking them up or playing with them if they do not want to.
· Fireworks can cause behaviours that we do not approve, such as scratching or ruining furniture, urinating or passing solids in places they shouldn’t etc. It is important to remember that you shouldn’t react angrily as this will only stress your pet out even more. Clear up any messes without reacting to your pet and try to find methods to alter their behaviour. It is possible to train your animal to be less afraid of fireworks which will in turn remove the bad behaviours. Reinforce fireworks with positive things like toys and playtime if they allow it and treats if they will take it. These methods are more effective towards dogs as they have an instinctual need to please.
· You might have seen the advert for a product called Feliway on television. There are products available like Feliway which releases pheromones that calm animals. They are specific to animal type so a dog pheromone product will not be the same as a cat one. I have never used any before but it is advertised to reduce stress so it is something you can consider.
Fireworks should not be released after 11pm (this law doesn’t apply on special occasions which is noted on the government website) so you should able to let your cat out or walk your dog after that. However, just because that’s the law doesn’t mean everyone will adhere to it. Just yesterday I heard one firework after 11 so be prepared if you are walking a dog.
I am sure I haven’t covered everything relating to animals and fireworks so if you have any advice or ideas that haven’t been written here, or have any stories to share, please do so in the comment box. I intend to turn this into an article for my pet care section at some point and would be grateful for any advice for dealing with fireworks (credit will also be given 🙂 !)