Top tips to keep your pet stress-free during firework season

Annie Hearfield

As the festive season approaches, so does the use of fireworks. Sadly, the loud noises and unexpected bright lights of fireworks can affect pets, so it’s important to take extra precautions to ensure that they’re kept safe and comfortable throughout this period.

We’ve collated some top tips to help ensure your pet remains as stress-free as possible during this time…

Know the signs

You know your pet best, so you are usually aware when your pet is distressed. Signs such as agitation, being more vocal than usual and destructive behaviour are common signs of discomfort. However, be aware that more discrete behaviours such as hiding, toileting inside or in different places, frequent panting and lip-licking are also demonstrative of stress. Remember, even if some pets have not shown a fear of fireworks in the past, they can develop a phobia at any time in their life.

Plan ahead

If you’re already aware that your furry, feathered, scaled or hooved companion has a phobia of fireworks, then preparing ahead is key to ensuring that they comfortably cope throughout fireworks season. There are a few things you can do to make sure they know they are safe and secure:

  • Speak to your vet —  they may suggest a pheromone diffuser, which disperses calming chemicals, medication or seeing an animal behaviourist
  • If you have a cat or dog, make sure there is a ‘safe space’ they can get to at all times — this could be under some furniture, or perhaps in a cupboard, and place some of their favourite toys or treats around for comfort
  • Consider desensitising your dog to loud noises — this is a great, longer-term solution that can help keep pets calm in anxious situations
  • Make sure that your pet is kept in a secure space at all times so that if a sudden noise occurs, they cannot escape and get lost
  • Research and be aware of when firework displays may occur, and keep pets inside with the curtains drawn
  • Never punish a pet for being scared –– this will make their fear worse in the long run
  • Consider bringing outdoor pets inside temporarily

Dogs and fireworks

It’s estimated that 45 percent of dogs in the UK are scared of fireworks, so get ahead and make them their own ‘doggy play area’ in the most quiet room or area of the house. Make sure that you plan this ahead of when the festivities begin, so that they have been trained to associate the area as stress-free and safe. If you wait until the last minute and react, they may be unnerved by your sudden change in behaviour, which will reinforce their fears. 

If you know that fireworks are planned to start, walk your dog in daylight before they start. When the fireworks begin, close the curtains in their safe space and consider turning on the radio to create gentle noise to distract them. You can attempt to play with them to distract them, but do not force them. 

Cats and fireworks

Make sure they have a safe spot to hide in –– this could be a particularly quiet spot in the house, such as under a bed or table, or a box. Do not confine them to a small space, as they may hurt themselves trying to get out of it.  It’s completely understandable that you may want to pick your pet up, or tempt them out of their hiding place to check they are ok — but resist doing this, as it can cause more distress. This is also a good time to make sure their microchip details are correct, or get them microchipped if they aren’t already, in case they manage to escape. 

Small animals and fireworks

Don’t forget about smaller animals such as guinea pigs, rabbits, birds or hamsters. Cover parts of cages or aviaries with a blanket, but be careful to make sure they can still look out, and ensure that one area is well soundproofed. You can also provide extra bedding for burrowing or consider bringing them inside, if they are based outside. 

Don’t forget donkeys, ponies and horses!

Check for local firework displays and consider contacting the organiser to request that fireworks are let off in the opposite direction to your horse. If they are staying in a field, make sure that fencing is secure and if they are staying in stables, make sure hay nets are secure so there is no risk they can get tangled. Try and stay with them if you know fireworks are going to be let off nearby, but be aware –– startled horses can be dangerous.

Remember, be aware of other wildlife that may be nearby

If you’re letting fireworks off yourself, or having a bonfire, make sure you’re aware of the safety of other types of wildlife.

  • Check bonfires before lighting for hedgehogs who may be hibernating
  • Do not set off fireworks near trees where birds may be nesting, lakes with waterfowl or fields of livestock

As animal lovers, we all want to ensure the well-being of beloved pets and keep them safe and as stress-free as possible. Whether you’re a dog, cat or horse owner, keep ahead with careful planning, preparation and awareness so that you can minimise the impact of firework season this year.

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