Fireworks can make celebrations exciting for us, but they’re not always quite as much fun for our cats or dogs. In a survey*, 39% of UK pet owners reported that their pets are scared of fireworks. Whilst this is an improvement of 22% since 2013 and is a credit to the work and intervention of vets, behaviourists and owners, it’s still over a third of all our pets that are scared of fireworks.
As the improvement shows, there are things we can do to help keep them calmer and safer. It’s up to you as their owner to help them cope and make sure their fireworks nights are as easy as they can be.
Does my cat or dog need help coping with fireworks?
Generally, most cats or dogs will struggle with fireworks. Animals have acute senses: for them every flash and bang can be unexpected and alarming. Think about how your cat or dog reacts to fireworks; or if you haven’t had them when there’s been fireworks, how they react to loud noises. Do they show any of the following behaviours?
Cats and Dogs
If they show any of these signs, your cat or dog might need help coping.
What can I do to help?
Speak to your vet for advice a few weeks in advance but be aware that long term behavioural therapy needs to be looked at least 6 months before fireworks season.
A few weeks before:
On the night Preparation / Before it gets dark
Long Term Management
Once this high risk time has passed it’s a good time to consider how you can best manage your pet’s situation long term to make it less frightening next time. It’s worth being aware that if left unmanaged these behaviours can get worse over time, resulting in increasingly uncontrolled behaviour. It can also have the effect of worsening their response to other unexpected loud noises such as door slamming or thunder.
One of the most common methods is using a “sound desensitisation” programme. There have been studies that have shown this to be effective for dogs and cats. The training is similar to programmes that police dogs and horses go through before being put into public work situations. They work by gradually exposing your cat or dog to a tiny amount of sound and then increasing it slowly over time. It can be a long process, but it’s worth it in the end. Our online sound desensitisation programme [LINK] includes clear written and verbal instructions, plus a practice track to help get you started and use the programme effectively.
Ask your vet practice or qualified behaviourist for more advice.
*PDSA PAW Report 2015