Fireworks / Loud Noises
Fireworks make our celebrations fun by bringing that extra element of noise and excitement, but for our cats or dogs – it can be a very confusing and challenging situation.
In a survey*, 61% of veterinary professionals reported seeing an increase in firework phobias in the last 2 years.
Discuss the behaviours displayed by your pets during loud noise or fireworks with your vet practice or behaviourist. They will help you take the necessary steps for the short term management of challenging situations.
It is important that your pets have their own safe place with which they have positive associations. A den is useful all year round, but is especially good for the fireworks season.
A calming supplement like Zylkene can help dogs and cats cope during firework displays. It is best to start Zylkene 1-2 days before fireworks and continue throughout the season. Keep in mind that fireworks season can last for a few weeks – and in some areas, well into the New Year.
- Walk your dog earlier in the day.
- Bring all of your pets inside before nightfall.
- Make sure all windows, doors and cat flaps are securely closed to avoid them bolting out of available exits.
- Provide extra litter trays for cats if they are not used to being confined to the house for long periods.
- Close the curtains and switch on the TV or radio to dull the external noise.
- Ignore unusual behaviour, such as panting, shaking or whining – unless they come to you first for reassurance.
- Play with a toy and see if your cat or dog wants to join in (if they want to).
- Provide distractions like treats or a brand new toy.
- Keep cats and dogs inside the house for as long as the fireworks are being let off.
- Leave your cat or dog by themselves while fireworks are going off, they will be more relaxed with you there in their familiar environment.
- Overwhelm them with affection, give no more than usual. Cats and dogs often pick up on their owner’s worry and overcompensating could make things worse.
- Force your cat or dog to come to you, especially if they are in their hiding place or den.
- React to the fireworks yourself.
- Be tempted to take your dog to a fireworks display – it is unsafe and could cause serious stress.
- Punish or get angry with your cat or dog – this will only make them more uneasy.
Once this high risk time has passed, it’s a good time to consider how you can best manage your pet’s situation for the long term – making it less frightening next time. If left unmanaged, these reactions 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 doors slamming or thunder.
One of the most commonly used and effective methods is using a “sound desensitisation” programme. There have been studies that show this to be useful 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 pet to a tiny amount of sound and then increasing it slowly over time. It can be a long process, but it is worth it in the end.
Our online sound desensitisation programme includes clear written and verbal instructions, plus a practice sound track to help get you started.
Ask your vet practice or qualified behaviourist for more advice.