It’s coming up to that time of the year – the only three days in New Zealand where fireworks can be sold to the public is 2nd-5th November. As we all know, this means fireworks are going to be a regular feature in our evenings from now until well after New Year!
Anxiety around fireworks is not uncommon in pets, and who can blame them? Loud noises, bright lights and strange smells can be scary when you don’t know what’s going on.
Here are some useful tips you can use to keep your pets safe and happy:
Make sure your dog as a decent walk earlier in the day. As they say, a tired dog is usually a happy one! However, do make sure your walk is finished well before the fireworks are likely to start.
Also take time during the day to ensure your dog’s collar is well fitted (it should be tight enough not to slip over the dog’s head, but loose enough that you can fit two fingers underneath) and has all the tags on. More dogs go missing during firework season than any other time of the year, so even if your dog doesn’t usually wear their collar in the house, you might want to put it on them just in case.
If you’re planning to have fireworks at your place and you know your pet gets anxious you may want to rethink your location for the sake of your pets.
2. Bring outside pets in
Your pets will be much better off inside where they feel safe and where the noisy fireworks aren’t quite as loud. Pets left outside are more likely to run away out of fear, or cause injury to themselves trying to escape from kennels and through fences.
Close windows and curtains and allow your pet a safe space to retreat to if they wish.
If you have a cat who comes in and out through a cat door, consider shutting off the door to keep them in for the night early in the evening before any festivities begin. If you want to practice getting them in at a certain time, tighten up for your feeding routine by starting to feed your cat’s evening meal at the exact same time each day. Don’t leave food down all day for them to graze on (they can do that at night while they’re safely inside!). They will soon learn to come home in time in time for dinner.
3. Comfort your pets!
It seems to be a popular school of thought that you shouldn’t comfort your pet when they’re scared and instead ignore them, acting as if everything is normal. However, we disagree! Dogs especially will feel reassured if they’re getting plenty of attention from you. That’s not to say you need to go over the top with fuss, but please don’t ignore you’re pet if they’re anxious and unhappy.
Just be aware that animals' behaviour can change when they're fearful or anxious, so leave them be if they're not enjoying your affection for both your sake and theirs.
If your’re not planning on being home with your pets while the fireworks are going on consider how they’re likely to react and make appropriate arrangements for them. Maybe they’ll be ok with the radio or TV on, or if they do tend to get particularly anxious maybe they’d be much better off with some human companionship for a few hours.
4. Use distractions
Distractions are a great way to keep your pet’s mind occupied. A favourite toy or a long-lasting tasty treat (a stuffed Kong can be great for this. Try stuffing with cream cheese, peanut butter and dog biscuits and then freezing it) can be just the ticket and keep your dog’s mind off the chaos going on outside!
5. Special tools for anxiety
If you have a pet who does tend to get anxious a lot, consider purchasing a Thundershirt, which is a specially designed shirt for cats and dogs which helps to ease anxiety (much like a swaddle does for a human baby).
You can also use specially formulated plug-ins or essential oils (please check the oils are safe for pets!) to help create a calm atmosphere.
In extreme cases you can ask your vet, who may be able to prescribe some medication to help your pets cope. However, please don't give your pets anything without a prescription. The internet sometimes likes to think it knows it all, but your vet knows best!
So there we have it! Enjoy the fireworks displays near you, but please remember to help your pets!