Keeping pets safe on Bonfire Night
Posted on 5 November, 2018
Bonfire Night can be horrible time for both pets and their owners. Many dogs and cats are frightened by loud bangs and flashes, and fireworks can cause them a great deal of stress and anxiety.
It’s estimated that 46% of dogs and 45% of cats are scared by fireworks. These days it’s not just restricted to Bonfire Night itself either.
Often people have parties in the run up to and after the 5th November, so it’s prudent to take precautions and be aware of what you can do to keep your pets safe for the two weeks or so around Bonfire Night.
Interestingly, not all pets are frightened by fireworks and it can be a behaviour that is learnt. Pet owners can often unwittingly pass on their own concerns and try to comfort pets when there are loud bangs.
Acting out of the ordinary and excessively comforting pets can alert them that they do have something to be concerned about, as their owner acts differently when they hear fireworks.
For pets that don’t show any signs of being frightened just ignoring fireworks and acting normal can stop pets worrying. They see you aren’t bothered by the noise, so they aren’t either.
But for those that really do dislike Bonfire Night there are a few things you can do to make it a bit less stressful for your pets. Here are our top tips for both pet owners and homesitters to minimise the stress:
• Keep dogs and cats inside after dark when it’s Bonfire Night and in the run up to and after 5th November.
• Try to walk dogs earlier in the day so that anyone randomly setting a firework off early doesn’t frighten your dog and cause them to run off.
• Take your dog on a long walk early in the day so they are tired in the evening.
• If your dog is particularly sensitive to loud bangs it might be worth keeping them on the lead in the days around Bonfire Night, just in case someone does set off a firework.
• At night make sure you close doors, windows and curtains, plus block cat flaps which can stop dogs and cats escaping and helps to keep the noise down.
• Putting the TV or radio on quite loud can also help drown out any noise. If you have to go out leave these on too or get a friend or homesitter to come and stay.
• If your pet is overly anxious about fireworks its best not to go out at all on Bonfire Night.
• It also goes without saying that you shouldn’t set off fireworks in your own garden if you or your neighbour has sensitive pets.
• Ensure your dog and cat has their collar on even in the house, just in case they do manage to escape, so that they can be easily identified and reunited.
• If your dog starts panting excessively it’s a sign they are really frightened. Try moving them to a room as far away from the firework noise as possible and stay with them until they calm down.
• Be careful not to over comfort your dog though as it can alert them that they are right to be scared. Instead just try to act as if everything is normal.
• Never shout at a pet for being frightened. This is likely to exacerbate the situation and make them associate fireworks with their owner getting angry – which makes them twice as anxious
• Praise and stroke pets that are staying calm to reinforce good behaviour and let them know they are behaving correctly.
• Finally make sure your pet has a safe place to go. For cats this could be in a cupboard or under the bed, for dogs it could be their own bed or a crate. Leave room doors open so they are free to come and go from their safe space as they choose.
It’s worth remembering that although fireworks can be bought from specially licensed shops all year round, they are on general sale from registered sellers such as supermarkets and shops for limited times, including:
• 15 October-10 November
• 26-31 December
• Three days before Diwali and Chinese New Year
It’s sensible for pet owners and homesitters on assignment to follow these tips during all of these key celebration times when more people might be letting off fireworks.