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Keep Your Pet Happy During Fireworks

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Keep your pets happy during fireworks!

Fireworks – While we love the bright colors and exciting explosions, our pets become scared and stressed. Our pets usually like and live by some sort of routine and evenings are often relaxing. Loud bangs, flashes of light and horrible smells invading their home can be very upsetting. Keep on reading below on how to keep your pet happy during fireworks.

Dogs & Cats

Cats and dogs present their ‘Firework Fear’ differently. Dogs cower and hide under or behind furniture whilst cats hide up high. Other signs include soiling in the house, refusing to eat and trying to run away. Dogs may also bark, tremble, pant and pace while cats may scratch and spray. With a little time and patience you can change this and get back to your normal, worry-free evenings.

Plan Ahead

Preparation is key to conquering ‘Firework Fear’. Keeping your pets as happy as possible during a stressful experience is key. Check your local notice boards, local newspapers and with neighbours for any planned displays.

Desensitization & Counter Conditioning

For long term management of a fear, your pet needs to get used to the thing that scares them and see it as part of normal life. The noises they find scary should become part of background noises they simply ignore.

There are a range of CDs and DVDs available or you could use sites such as YouTube to play firework videos. The idea is to introduce the noise gradually, at a very low volume and screen brightness. At this low level, it should not scare your pet but they will notice it and react in some way.

You should play these sounds or videos at the same level until your pet no longer reacts. The following day you can increase the volume and brightness. Over a few weeks, you should have been able to increase the volume to the maximum and your pet is no longer concerned.

Try not to sit there and watch your pet and do not make a fuss of them if they show concern- continue with your day as normal. This is a process known as desensitization.

Counter conditioning is the replacement of an unwanted behaviour with a accepted behaviour. In this case, you will aim to end fearful reactions to fireworks and achieve a calm and happy pet.
You may not have enough time to desensitize them fully before the first event but starting any training will help your pet. Each pet will react and adapt in a different amount of time, so be patient, and all will pay off.

Build A Den

Your pet may already have a favorite place to relax but if they don’t, you can make one.

Dogs usually prefer to be under furniture or in their crates. Cats feel safe higher up but loud noises will often send them fleeing and hiding under furniture. Wherever your pet is happiest, enhance or set up their special place.

  • Allow access at all times – don’t force them to go in
  • Provide blankets and even some of your old jumpers for extra comfort and familiar scents.
  • Drape blankets over a crate or box will help to block out sound and light
  • Only associate positive experiences with their den – food, toys and affection.
  • Remember that this is their place to relax now, so even if they are scared and in their den, it is best to leave them alone.

Although fireworks may not seem too loud to us when we are inside, they will be a lot louder for our pets. You can help to minimize this by closing all doors and windows. Draw your curtains to block out flashes of light and this will help a little with the noise too. If your curtains are thin, hanging blankets or spare sheets will help to dull the flashes.

Lock your door and cat flaps. Your pets should not be outside during the displays. If your pet is so scared that soiling indoors could be an issue, put down some newspaper or toilet pads. Also provide extra litter trays around the house for cats. If an accident is unavoidable, try to contain it to one area and don’t let it upset you as they will sense this.

Tags & Microchips

Although your pets will be inside, they should wear a collar and tag with your contact details. If your pet manages to escape, they can be reunited with you. Any lost pets have a better chance of getting reunited with owners if they are micro-chipped, and have up-to-date contact details.

Helpful Products

The most successful product ranges on the market for stress in cats and dogs are Feliway and Adaptil.

Feliway products contain a copy of a cat’s pheromone and produces a reassuring effect to calm nervous or tense cats. Adaptil products contain a copy of the pheromone produced by dogs to comfort puppies.
Feliway and Adaptil Diffusers are simply plugged into sockets in the room(s) your pet spends the most time. Use a diffuser in the same room as your pet’s den, to bathe its surroundings in positive chemicals to help your pet relax during the fireworks.

You can alternatively use the handy sprays inside their den and around the room for short term effects (2-3 hours). Adaptil Collars can also be used, with effects lasting up to 4 weeks. Your vet will be able to advise on medication in extreme cases but with time and a good desensitization program, any dog will improve.

On The Day

These apply whether you have been preparing for months, weeks or even if the fireworks come as a surprise!

  • Keep your tone of voice light or happy.
  • Get your pet’s favourite toys out and encourage play time.
  • If you pet know a few different commends, get them to focus on you and distract them with some training.
  • Do you have more than one pet? Play with the calmer pet to help set a happy atmosphere for the nervous individuals
  • Ignore restlessness, whining, shaking or any other anxiety. Making a fuss of an anxious animal will only show them that they have a reason to be scared. This doesn’t mean you can’t give them comfort if they come to sit with you. A calm cuddle is perfect!
  • Do not tell your pet off for any reason. If they make a mess, clear it up and continue as normal
  • If you have a dog, take them for a long walk early, and try not be out whilst the fireworks start
  • Feed your pet early.

By Jennifer Nash

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