Alison Laurie -Chalmers, Senior Consultant, Crown Vets Inverness.
Fireworks are enjoyed by people but they can be a real source of intense fear and distress for many animals and for our pets.
Follow these tips to make these well established, human, celebratory events, such as bonfire night less terrifying for our much loved pets.
To keep your pets safe, settled and secure make sure that your dog or cat always has somewhere to hide safely. If your pet wants to hide away make then sure that they have easy access to a little "hide”, which will be their safe haven place and make sure there is easy access to this area at all times. For example, use a quiet area in the house under a table with a blanket cover, or in the base of an open cupboard, or simply a large, open cardboard box under a thick blanket on the floor. Provide a soft, comfy bed in this area and a heavy blanket to hide under if required. Before the firework season encourage your pet to use this safe area by leaving treats and toys inside the "hide" but do not impose yourself here at any time, it should be a place where your pet feels that he is in some control here and feels safe. Cats may prefer to hide in a cat basket with the door left off or open and covered with a blanket, or some cats prefer to be high up on an elevated platform and put a blanket up on this area also though so that they can hide underneath this if they prefer.
During the fireworks seasons do walk your dog during daylight hours and keep him safe, close to you on a lead if you do have to walk him in the dark. Sensibly keep your pets indoors when fireworks are likely to be set off, for example on planned, and timed firework events.
At nightfall close all windows and curtains to "black out" the indoor area to avoid flashing lights from fireworks and put on some music with a steady, even, rhythmic beat to mask and hopefully muffle the sounds of the noisy fireworks outside.
Let your pet settle and do not overly fuss over them, leave them alone to seek out their safe place, unless you think they may harm themselves. Try to ignore the firework noises yourself, act normally and encourage gentle indoor play, or offer a treat if your pet is interested.
If family members get dressed up for Halloween guising, or any guising guests arrive at your home dressed in unusual, scary attire, your pets understandably may be easily terrified. Again, provide a quiet room for your pets with their safe haven "hide" in that room, and discourage any Halloween guisers from entering this area and scaring your pets. Your front door may be open a lot during Halloween night, so do be vigilant and ensure that your pets are safely kept indoors in a closed, safe room in a quieter area of the house.
Never punish your pets when they are scared, as this will only make matters worse in the long run.
Make sure your cat or dog is always kept in a safe, secure environment and cannot escape to the outdoors if there is a sudden noise or flashing lights or they are scared by guising strangers. Do not be tempted to let your cat out as this will only cause it to be more stressed and she may run off in fear and then there is a real risk of injury from road traffic if they run off in this frame of mind. Provide a safe quiet haven for your cat with a litter tray and food and water bowls nearby and also a quiet "den" for your dog with again water available close at hand.
Identify your pets, and have your pets Microchip details up to date in case they do run off.
Use plug-in pheromone diffusers. These disperse safe, calming, pheromone chemicals into the air in the room and they do help to calm pets down.
If your dog has a "doggy friend" that isn't scared of fireworks and they get on well together, it can sometimes help to bring a doggy friend along for a "sleep over" evening to help your dog to realise that there is no need to be so afraid.
If you have caged pets that live outside, partly cover their cages with a heavy blanket to shield them from flashing lights and noise and turn the cages away from facing any open ground. Also provide plenty of extra bedding and hay so that your caged pets can bury underneath this to hide.
Some pets do need some additional help and assistance to alleviate their intense distress and fear during the fireworks season. Do contact us for any further advice of treatments available here.