While Bonfire Night is a time that many of us enjoy, for our pets it can be a completely different story. The majority of our dogs or cats will get through 5th November and the surrounding week or so with no problems whatsoever. However, a recent study has shown that up to 80% of pets may suffer from some sort of noise phobia or fear of fireworks. This only highlights the fact that, as responsible pet owners, we must take steps to ensure they feel as safe and as comfortable as possible.
It is quite normal for dogs or other pets to react to a loud bang or sudden noise with a bark or something similar. However, Bonfire Night can be quite different as there are often prolonged periods of bangs, shrieks and whistles that will cause anxiety in many pets. The first stage in preventing this is to recognise the signs of nervousness or discomfort, which include:
Create a Den
One of the best things you can do for your pets around firework season is to create a safe haven, a den where they feel secure. This should be done in advance so that they know it’s safe, so building it around their existing bed is a good idea. Use towels or blankets to make an enclosed space that is protected from light and sound, but provide plenty of space and allow free entry and exit.
If your pet already has an existing ‘den’ that they like to use, this is likely to be a sufficient space and should be made comfortable and protective if possible. Always make sure clean water is available so that increased panting during times of stress is not a problem.
Adapt Your Home
There are no huge changes that owners need to make to their home to ensure their pets feel safe. Keeping windows, doors and curtains closed (which you’re likely to do anyway) will block out sound and light, helping to promote a normal atmosphere.
The majority of pet owners will have either the television or radio on during the evening anyway, but having some background noise near your pet should help drown out the noise of fireworks and make them more comfortable. Having the lights on inside will also negate the effect of changing light outside, creating a stable environment.
One of the best things owners can do is act like nothing has changed. Pets feed off the atmosphere and reactions of people around them so the less change they see in people’s attitudes, the more likely they are to stay calm. While this may not always be possible, try to stay in the house when fireworks are likely to go off.
However, it’s important not to fuss over your pet if they become scared as they may see this as a reward for their behaviour. You may find it difficult, but let them go to their safe place; experts have agreed that this kind of fear should be ignored.
Equally, owners should not punish their pets for this kind of behaviour. To them this will be seen as confirmation that they should be scared, something that could result in further problems. Again, allow them to go to their safe place where they feel comfortable.
If you are worried about your pets’ reaction and think that the above steps won’t be enough, there are a number of remedies on the market that are designed to calm them. Many contain only natural ingredients and are recommended for occasions such as Bonfire Night where the noise might be a problem.
There are remedies for cats and dogs, with many suitable for both. They can come in the form of diffusers that you can position around your house or dietary supplements that can be included with daily feeds. There are even special coats, known as ThunderShirts, that are proven to work and reduce anxiety in dogs. Before using any of these supplements, you may wish to consult with your vet.
By taking into account all or some of these tips, you stand a great chance of getting through fireworks season without your pet becoming anxious or scared.