Celebrating the festive period with firework displays can be exciting for us, but for our beloved pets, the loud noises and bright lights can be quite the opposite. The sudden, loud bangs and bright, flashing lights can trigger fear and anxiety in many animals.
According to the RSPCA, it is estimated that 45% of dogs experience fear when they hear fireworks, and the PDSA recorded that 34% of owners reported their cats feeling afraid. That’s over 4 million dogs and 3 million cats across the UK. Less is understood about the severity of the fear felt by cats, as they tend to display more passive signs of fear such as hiding or fleeing, as opposed to the more active responses from dogs, who are more likely to bark and cause disruption.
Our furry and feathered friends have very acute hearing and heightened sensitivity to noises for hunting and survival skills, which make explosions even more terrifying for them. The average decibel sound for breathing is 10dB, conversation is about 60dB, and fireworks are upwards of 150dB. Because of this, many pets experience panic, stress, and often attempt to flee to find safety, putting them at greater risk of getting lost or injured.
It is therefore vitally important for us to take responsibility and recognise the harmful impact bonfires and fireworks can have on our pets and take steps to ensure their safety and wellbeing during this event. With a little preparation and care, we can make sure our pets enjoy the festivities as much as we do.
Below are some essential tips for keeping your pets happy, safe, and calm during these lively celebrations.
Create a safe space
If your pet does not already have a safe space at home, take this opportunity to create one. It could be in a spare room or a quiet part of the house that contains their favourite toys, a cosy bed and fresh water. Your pet will appreciate a space that they can call their own that feels calm and comforting during festivities. We have plenty of chew-worthy treats and toys over on our website, such as our ever popular Pet Hates Toys political figures.
Close the curtains
Create a more soothing and calm environment that blocks out some of the bright lights and flashes that are occurring outside, as well as filtering out some of the noise. By reducing the visual impact of the fireworks, your pets are more likely to feel safe and secure in their own home with the people they love.
Mask any noise
In addition to closing the curtains, play some calming music or white noise to dull the sounds from outside. Fireworks are loud, unpredictable sounds, so by providing soothing, rhythmic music and soft sounds, you can help distract them from explosions and keep them calm.
Stay calm and reassuring
Our pets can feel our emotions and take cues from our behaviour to mirror in their own. By remaining calm yourself, your pet knows all is well, and by providing comfort you can help to reassure them that they are safe by your side, regardless of the unpredictable nature of the activities they could hear from outside.
Pet microchipping / ID tags.
Ensure your pet details are up to date on their microchip system or collar tags. In the UK, there is typically a 40% increase in lost pets reported to shelters and rescue organisations during the week surrounding events such as bonfire night, due to your pets heightened anxiety and the need to escape the noise. If they get scared and run out, or are already out when festivities begin and have not returned, they could be hiding in a safe space much further from home until things have calmed down. By keeping their details correct, they can be easily found if they become lost. It is also a good idea to keep useful numbers to hand such as your local rescue centres and homes, just in case your pet has been found and is waiting in anticipation for you to take them home.
Stay indoors and plan ahead
If you know events are taking place near home, schedule walks and feeding times accordingly so that your pet is more settled when the fireworks begin. Keep your pets inside during firework displays to reduce their exposure to the loud sounds and flashing lights and avoid taking them to fireworks displays and bonfires to eliminate unnecessary stress.
Use pheromones for pets
Some animals respond well to using man-made pheromone sprays and diffusers which release ‘happy’ hormones to help your pet feel calm. These need to be introduced early on and not on the night, as they need time to adjust and take effect before events start taking place. Talk to a medical professional such as your family vet or local animal centre about how best to use these and whether they will be suitable for your pet.
Another option for intervention is to use a natural health supplement that supports your pet’s stress and anxiety levels. These are often administered as a tablet or drops in food, and contain herbs and active ingredients such as valerian root and mistletoe. At Enzo’s Pet Pantry we have a selection of calming treats and health supplements, such as Scullcap and Valerian tablet supplement from Dorwest, which is suitable for both cats and dogs and naturally supports the calming pathways within the nervous system without drowsiness. You can read more about it here.
Plenty of reassurance and cuddles
As if we need more reasons to cuddle up together! Take advantage of staying in as a perfect opportunity to provide comfort and plenty of affection to our furry family members, so that they feel safe, loved and are distracted from the festivities outside.
Talk to a professional
If your pet suffers from extreme anxiety and stress, or has a nervous disposition in daily life, it is advised to speak to your family vet to see what additional support can be provided. They can offer anxiety-relief techniques to try at home specific for your pet, and if necessary, provide medication that supports their nervous system to help them feel calm during the events.
Beautiful though they can be, being exposed to fireworks can create a stressful time for our animal friends, so it is important and ultimately our responsibility to prioritise their health and wellbeing during this time. By creating a safe space, masking the noise, and offering reassuring cosy cuddles, you can help your four-legged companions to weather the storm of any fireworks festivities with a sense of calm and security.
Here's to heart-warming and cosy nights in for everyone!