Watching the bursts of colour pop and bang into life, the mesmerising patterns and the slowly fading beauty of fireworks are displays that many of us love to watch, whilst we celebrate a special occasion or come together for the holidays. Although we may love it, there are others that we should be respectful of who don’t love it so much.
Our pets, as members of the family need to be thought of during firework season. These bangs and flashes of colour can be frightfully scary and distressing for an animal that hasn’t been acclimatised to these strange and loud noises. Dogs, cats, rabbits and guinea-pigs in particular can suffer from varying levels of anxiety and noise phobia. This can make them act out of character and can actually traumatise them if it is severe enough. Thankfully, there are things we can do to help them through this stressful time and put them at some ease.
For dogs and cats, making them a safe zone such as a dark den or crate they can retreat to for safety as and when they need to is a great idea. Covering a crate, a table or chair with a big blanket and putting their favourite toys and a comfortable bed inside can make them feel secure and release their stress somewhat. Closing windows, curtains and doors will help to muffle the sound of the bangs and stop the sudden flashes from making them jump. Making sure the lights are on also helps to minimise the bright light from outside. Turning on the television or playing the radio is another way to dampen down the loud sounds. If you know your cat is scared of fireworks, be as organised as you can be and encourage them inside before the evening if you think fireworks will be used that night. Locking the cat flaps and making sure they can’t escape, if they suddenly panic, ensures they are safe inside. Remember to lay at least two litter trays down if they are normally outdoor cats, so they can go to the toilet if needs be. If you know your dog or cat is scared of fireworks, do not try to ‘over-pet’ or comfort them more than usual, as this may make them think there is something to worry about. Alternatively, punishing them for being anxious or scared will not help and it could potentially make the situation even worse. Making sure we are acting as if it was just any other day will show them it is fine. You can, however, try and play with them or offer toys filled with yummy treats (animal friendly of course), to help distract them and take their mind off of outside.
Making sure our rabbits, guinea-pigs and other small furries is also just as important! Keeping the noise and light muffled as described above will help hamsters, gerbils, rats and other small furries from feeling as anxious. Their cages can also be covered to provide darkness and extra bedding can be given to allow them to bury deeper if they feel they need to. These tips can also be used for your rabbits and guinea-pigs which already live indoors. Outdoor rabbits and guinea-pigs should not be brought indoors without proper acclimatisation as this can be just as distressing as fireworks. If you are aware your small animals are scared of fireworks, they should be trained on coming inside and should be comfortable with this before doing so. Moving their hutch(es) into a shed can provide some shelter and comfort for outdoor animals, as well as covering the front with a towel to provide darkness.
Although we can take steps towards keeping our animals calm, in some cases they aren’t enough and behavioural or medical treatment may be required. Behavioural consultations with a veterinary surgeon or a behaviourist is a great and beneficial step towards helping your animal get over their fear of fireworks. Medical treatment such as capsules or tablets can be brought over-the-counter for calming purposes, as well as pheromone diffusers which help to provide a calming environment. In more anxious animals where these medications do not work, a consultation with a veterinary surgeon should be considered as they will happily offer advice and can authorise prescription medication if necessary. Behavioural lessons is advised for extreme cases of anxiety and animals who show fear-aggression.
At Ryder-Davies we sell over-the-counter medication, such as Calmex, Adaptil and Feliway. These are non-prescription medications which we recommend. Calmex is a capsule form for reducing anxiety, whereas, Adaptil and Feliway are pheromone diffusers. It is important to note that pheromone diffusers must be used for up to two weeks in the home environment before any benefit can be seen.