Fireworks are an integral part of many people’s New Year celebrations and are likely to be all the more so this year given we’ve all endured a tough 12 months dominated by the Covid pandemic.
Where fireworks are allowed to be set off, the loud flashes and bangs are likely to make it an anxious and terrifying time for our four-legged friends.
So what can you do to give them the best start to 2022 possible?
NationalWorld asked vets and leading charities for their advice.
How to keep dogs calm on New Year’s Eve
Most dogs are easily distressed by fireworks.
“Dogs have approximately four times more sensitive hearing than humans, so the loud cracks and bangs of fireworks can often be a terrifying and confusing experience for them,” said head of canine behaviour at charity the Dogs Trust, Jenna Kiddie.
“Fireworks tend to be sudden, unpredictable and bright. This combination can be distressing and have a lasting impact on dogs.”
Kiddie has given NationalWorld eight top tips for dog owners on how to keep their pups as calm as possible on New Year’s Eve:
- Walk your dog during daylight hours – it’s a good idea to make sure your dog is exercised and has had a toilet break well before any fireworks displays are likely to get underway
- Feed your dog before the fireworks begin - they may not want to eat during the fireworks
- Make sure your house and garden are secure - some dogs may try to run away if they’re scared
- Provide a safe hiding place – ensure your pooch has a safe bolthole in their favourite room. For example, put a comfy bed under a table with blankets to make it cosy and help with soundproofing
- Mask bangs and flashes - close the curtains, turn the lights on and turn up the volume on your TV or radio to mask the firework noises and flashes
- Keep your dog busy - playing games or doing some training can help take their mind off the noise
- Comfort and reassure your dog - try to remain calm and avoid telling your dog off, as this might make them more anxious
- Let them be - if your dog just wants to hide somewhere, they shouldn’t be forced to come out. Allow them to stay where they feel safe
Pet emergency care provider Vets Now also recommends talking to your vet if your dog is particularly sensitive to fireworks displays.
Vets can direct you to products, like calming collars or medication.
The Dog’s Trust also has sound-based treatment programmes that aim to gradually normalise noises that can prove scary to pups.
While it’s too late to start one of these programmes in time for New Year’s Eve, it might be worth trying one out on your pet so they’re ready for upcoming celebrations, like Bonfire Night 2022.
What can I do to help my cat on New Year’s Eve?
According to Vets Now, cats associate loud noises with danger and may well panic when the flashes and bangs start going off nearby.
The vet service provider said its vets see “hundreds” of felines that have been involved in road traffic accidents due to being spooked by fireworks.
As with dogs, sound therapy may be a solution for your cat.
Vets Now also recommends talking to your vet for advice on what to do.
Here are some top tips from the company on how best to look after your cat during the fireworks:
- Make sure your cat can’t harm itself - even the most placid of cats can bolt for cover and hurt themselves in the process. It’s advised to make sure they have access to more than one room to avoid hurting themselves
- Keep them indoors - block off cat flaps so they can’t escape and avoid leaving them home alone
- Close your curtains - keep out flashes by trying to keep your cat somewhere with no windows, or by shutting the curtains
- Allow access to their favourite bolthole - try to avoid constantly checking on them if they have chosen to hide somewhere
- Drown out the noise - provide background noise from a TV or radio
- Act normal - it is more beneficial to act calmly. If you give off any anxiety, your cat may think they should be worried too
- Don’t tell them off - it’s advised to not shout at your cat if it becomes destructive as a result of distress — this will only upset your pet more
- Provide an indoor litter tray in a convenient location - if cats are very anxious, they may avoid visiting the toilet if they feel threatened or scared. So try to help them keep up their normal routine by putting their litter tray in an accessible place
Vets Now says it can be hard to know if your cat is distressed because they don’t tend to reveal their emotional state as readily as dogs.
Some cats will show obvious signs of stress and anxiety though.
Look out for dilated pupils and withdrawn behaviour. You should listen out for hissing or low grumbling too.
When cats are scared they’re also likely to arch their back and crouch, pin their ears back, and make slow low movements.
What about my other pets?
It’s not only dogs and cats that can be distressed by fireworks.
Rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters and birds can also be terrified by displays.
Some have even been known to die of fright when fireworks are set off near their home.
Here are some more tips from Vets Now on how to help the smaller creatures in your life.
- Bring their hutch inside - the sound-proofing provided by the four walls of your home will help your pet cope. If bringing their cage inside isn’t possible, partly cover it with blankets so that they have some soundproofing. But you must ensure your pet has enough ventilation
- Soundproof your house by closing windows and drawing curtains
- Again, you can provide normal background noises, like the TV or radio
- Provide plenty of bedding - this will help your pet feel secure by giving them something to hide in and will also help keep out the noise
- Make sure they’re not alone — rabbits in particular are social animals, so try to make sure they’re with someone they’re familiar with
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