Preparing for the big bang
Remember, remember the fifth of November? For many of our pets, it’s a date they would rather forget. However, by planning ahead and following some practical tips, you can help your pets feel safer and more secure during the firework season.
1. CREATE A SAFE SPACE Make a den or nest area where your dog can retreat to – somewhere they can feel safe and secure. This may be a spot where they naturally go to hide, such as under your bed, beneath the kitchen table or, if it’s a big enough space, the cupboard under the stairs. Encourage them to use this ‘refuge’ by putting their bed there, draping duvets and blankets over chairs to create a snug space, putting some long-lasting chew treats there, as well as an item of your clothing – your scent will help them to feel safe. Plan ahead and get your dog used to spending time in their den, associating it with good things, before firework season begins. The RSPCA has a video of helpful tips for dogs, cats and small pets, including how to create a Doggy Safe Den.
2. PROVIDE FACILITIES Cats will benefit from having plenty of different hiding places, something that is particularly important if you have more than one feline. Don’t forget to put litter trays out for each of them too.
3. PROTECT SMALL FURRIES Rabbits, guinea pigs, ferrets and small indoor pets can be extremely frightened by bangs and flashes too. For those that usually live outside, try and move their hutch or enclosure somewhere more sheltered, such as into a quiet room of the house, or into a shed or empty garage. If this isn’t possible, cover it with blankets to help muffle the sound. Providing small pets with extra bedding to burrow into will also help them feel more secure – try Burgess Excel Feeding Hay with Chamomile, which is renowned for its calming properties.
4. WALK IN DAYLIGHT Make sure your dog gets a good walk earlier in the day before any fireworks start and bring your cat inside before it gets dark. Never leave your pets home alone on fireworks night.
5. ADD HOMELY NOISES As it starts to get dark, close all external doors, windows and cat-flaps. Draw the curtains and have the TV or radio on as background noise. Add some ‘white noise’ – perhaps putting the washing machine on or doing the hoovering as the fireworks start – pets usually find normal household sounds comforting and this will help mask the bangs.
DID YOU KNOW?
According to the RSPCA, it’s estimated that 45% of dogs
in the UK show signs of fear when they hear fireworks.
6. ACT NORMAL Avoid the temptation to cuddle or comfort distressed pets. Instead stay calm and relaxed, act normally and praise them for calm behaviour. Seeing you acting normally will help them feel more settled and reassure them that’s there’s nothing to worry about.
7. STAY CALM It is worth trying an Adaptil pheromone device for dogs or a Feliway diffuser for cats. These mimic feel-good pheromones, helping them to feel calm – ask your vet for details. Pet Remedy, a clinically-proven blend of valerian and vetiver, sweet basil and clary sage essential oils, is also suitable for use with small pets and is available as a calming spray, calming wipes, plug diffuser and battery-operated atomiser.
8. JACKET REQUIRED? Pressure wraps or ThunderShirts, are now available at pet retail outlets and could be worth investigating if you have a dog with high levels of anxiety. They were developed in the USA by Phil Blizzard for his dog Dosi, who was terrified by thunderstorms and fireworks. After a friend recommended trying a snug wrap – rather like swaddling a baby – Phil wrapped Dosi in an old t-shirt secured with packing tape to create mild pressure. Dosi calmed almost immediately and the idea for developing the ThunderShirt was born. Scientific studies have shown a significant reduction in heart rate in dogs who wore a pressure wrap. Find out more here >>.
9. TRY SOUND THERAPY A good technique is to slowly desensitise your dog to the sounds of fireworks – although this needs to be started well in advance of fireworks night and needs to be carried out extremely carefully. Your vet can provide more advice on this. Dogs Trust has free Sound Therapy for Pets resources explaining how to do this, as well as downloadable firework sounds.
10. CONSULT YOUR VET Finally, if your pet has a serious and extreme fear of fireworks, seek expert veterinary help well in advance as medication can be prescribed for very anxious pets.