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Fireworks are a celebratory display of colour, light and sound for many people, but for owners of dogs, cats, rabbits and other animals it can be a time of distress if their pets are scared and fearful. At easipetcare we’re here to help you help your pet so you can both feel safe and happy during the festive fireworks season.
Why is my dog, cat or rabbit scared of fireworks?
Animals – including humans – have a fear response designed to help us survive in the wild. This ‘flight or fight’ response is learned from birth. Loud noises and bright lights are usually associated with danger, such as falling objects or lightning. As a result, the learned fear response to run away or hide to avoid danger is reinforced as the correct behaviour. So it’s no surprise when fireworks trigger the same fear response; it’s a survival technique.
How can I prevent fear of fireworks in my puppy?
Puppies are learning from us all the time. We can help them learn fireworks are not to be feared by remaining calm, engaging in play and giving treats when they are acting normally during fireworks. Conversely, if we give treats and lots of attention when they are scared, this will reward and reinforce the fearful behaviour. So we can teach puppies not to fear fireworks, but it does take time and patience and it’s best to start when they’re young.
Desensitisation CDs and sounds can be used if your puppy is born in the spring and unlikely to hear fireworks until they’re older. Once they’re older these techniques can also be used to reduce fireworks phobia, but it’s a lot harder to teach an old dog new tricks than it is to train a puppy not to be scared in the first place! Our team are ready to help with behaviour advice and tools, whatever the age of your dog.
How can I help my scared dog to stay calm and safe during fireworks?
If your dog already has a phobia of fireworks there are lots of things which can help. Preparing in advance helps; if they are already experiencing the ‘flight or fight’ fear response it is much harder to calm them. Firstly, provide a safe, secure space for them. Put lots of toys, treats and cosy blankets there so they feel this is a safe, happy space. Close windows and curtains to reduce exposure to the noise and light flashes. Play calming background noise and distract them with games if they want to play. Never be angry or punish them – this will make them even more fearful and add to their distress.
Remember, they pick up their behaviour cues from us, so remain calm, quiet and happy. Do sit and stroke them if it helps them to stay calm, but don’t ignore them if they’re being calm – it’s important to reward the good behaviour more than the undesirable fear!
Some dogs will still be beside themselves and unable to respond to your best efforts to keep them calm. At easipetcare we know this can be distressing for you and your pet, so all our branches are available around the clock for advice and affordable veterinary treatment options. We can support you and your pet with behaviour advice, calming pheromones and other methods, and anti-anxiety medication if your dog needs it. The earlier you contact us, the more we can do to help you to prevent your dog from becoming fearful.
How can I help my cat during fireworks?
Like dogs, cats also like to have a safe space and reduced exposure to the noise and light if they are afraid of fireworks. Safe spaces for cats are often dark corners or high up shelves. If they choose these spaces, don’t try to coax them out and reassure them. They will choose the place they feel safest, so it’s best to leave them to it. You can give them a few treats if they will take them and speak to them in a soothing voice to help keep them calm.
Outdoor cats should ideally be kept in to keep them safe and to reduce risk of injury or running away. Make sure your cat is micro-chipped with up to date contact details in case they do run away! Contact us if you’re not sure if your cat is micro-chipped and we can check for you. If your cat goes missing, look in lockable outdoor spaces such as sheds or garages as they will often run into these for shelter, but may not be able to find their way out again.
How can I help my rabbit or guinea pig during fireworks?
Our small furry friends have exactly the same flight or fight responses as dogs and cats, but because they are prey species they hide their fear. Just like we do for other pets, providing safe spaces such as extra blankets over their living areas to dampen noise and light and extra bedding can help them feel safe. Make sure they can still see out; do not cover their living space completely or they will feel trapped. If your pet is outdoors, bringing them in can help, but this does need to be done gradually in the lead up to fireworks season, or it may add to their stress.
Pets, livestock, wildlife and fireworks – what else can you do?
Every year, lots of pets, farm animals, wildlife – not forgetting young children! – are scared or injured by fireworks. You can help by only attending organised fireworks displays, and not having your own fireworks parties. If you are planning your own fireworks, let your neighbours know in advance so they can keep their animals in. Ensure you don’t have them near farm animals, horses or wildlife areas. Choose low-noise fireworks, and build a bonfire last minute to reduce the risk of wildlife, such as hedgehogs and voles, being trapped inside. You can ask your neighbours to inform you if they’re planning a fireworks party so you can keep your animals safe.
We hope this information provides you with everything you need to have a safe and enjoyable fireworks season.
Until next time with very bets wishes,
Contact your nearest branch to help you and your pet to have a happy, safe fireworks season:
easipetcare Chatham – 01634 829934
easipetcare Dartford – 01322 223447
easipetcare Derby – 01332 611896
easipetcare Kettering – 01536 415775
easipetcare Reading – 01189 699526
easipetcare Southampton – 023 8073 3000
easipetcare Streatham – 0203 621 6114