In a survey conducted by the PDSA, 40% of pet owners said their pets feared fireworks. The fact is, fireworks are not just limited to the weekends around Bonfire Night (November 5th) anymore.
Our head vet Richard has some seasonal advice for cat owners in East Renfrewshire on how to help their pets cope with the now year-round risks posed by loud and sudden noises.
If none of the ‘natural’ measures recommended below do the trick, you should talk to us about other options like pheromone sprays and diffusers for cats. These remedies can help even the most nervous cats.
The problem with sudden noises, like fireworks, is that they put your cat into ‘fight or flight’ mode. More often than not this means they bolt off, increasing their chances of getting lost or injured. These behaviours are more prevalent at times of the year when sudden noises are everywhere, but they can actually be triggered at any time.
Use the tick list below and follow our advice to maximise the chances of your cat surviving a sudden noise scare in one piece.
Four things to do when you know it’s going to be noisy
- Encourage earlier meal times. We recommend introducing earlier mealtimes for your cat around the middle to end of October as it starts to get dark earlier. This should get them into the routine of coming back into the house before it’s dark and the noises start.
- Keep your cat indoors when it’s dark & noisy. When you know it’s going to be noisy, keeping them indoors at night reduces the risk of them getting injured if they bolt. Restrictions like this can be stressful for cats so you should let them back out to roam when it’s safe.
- Do not try to coax your cat out of hiding. If your cat has been spooked by the noise and is hiding, leave them where they are. A searching hand will not be welcome and it’s better to let cats ‘sit it out’ where they feel safe.
- Give them a treat. A stuffed chew-toy or a puzzle-ball can keep cats occupied for hours. Any novel stimulation can help take their mind off noise, which can significantly reduce stress.
Two actions to help cats with noise phobias year-round
- Tag and microchip. Ensuring your cat is both microchipped and wears an identity tag, makes it much easier for you to be reunited if the noise has caused them to run to un-familiar surroundings.
- Create a safe space. A natural reaction when any animal is scared is for them to retreat to their ‘den’. You should provide a safe, comfortable, and quiet space for every pet – including cats.
If all else fails – consider cat pheromones
Just as with dogs, pheromone diffusers can be used to help calm even the most stressed cat when things get really bad. Diffusers can take a couple of weeks to take effect so it’s important to start using them in advance of known noisy periods, or as soon as you notice your cat becoming anxious.
If the natural steps listed above don’t quite do the trick, contact our Rouken Glen Road practice on 0141 620 2580 to discuss your cat’s particular needs.
Fireworks are now a common feature at birthdays and weddings, as well as a key part of many seasonal celebrations like Bonfire Night. Add that to the fact that an estimated 3.2 million households got a pet during lockdown, and the coming weeks could be problematic. As November approaches, there will be many pet owners in Giffnock and across the Barrhead, Newton Mearns, and Pollokshaws areas, who will be soon dealing with dogs scared by loud noises for the first time this year.
One of the quickest and easiest ways to help most stressed dogs (and other pets) is to think about using pheromone sprays and diffusers.
However, as the ‘Firework Season’ approaches, responsible dog owners should, at the very least, be creating a ‘den’ (a safe place) for their dog with familiar smelling blankets and toys (adding your own unwashed clothing can be comforting). Making sure all windows and doors are shut when it gets noisy outside is a good idea too.
That said, if you’re looking for a long-term solution to help your dog deal with sudden noises like fireworks, it might be worth looking at desensitisation training for dogs. Here’s a quick guide to how that works.
Before you start, you will need these four things…
- A quiet space – You’ll need to introduce your dog to this calm place a few weeks before you begin the training.
- Example noises – Audio recordings of fireworks and other loud noises. You can get these in many places online.
- Treats – A selection of your pet’s favourite treats and toys.
- Time – This process takes two or three half hour (approx.) sessions over several weeks.
And this is the five-step process you should follow…
- Play the noise quietly – In their calm place, play the noises you are using at a low level so that your pet either doesn’t respond at all, or just turns towards the source. Do this for periods of up to 30 seconds.
- Reward good behaviour – After each reaction, give them a tiny piece of their favourite food, about the size of a pea.
- Slowly increase the noise – Once they stop reacting to the loud sounds and do other things while the sounds are playing, slowly (session by session) increase the volume. With each increase in volume give your dog up to 30 seconds to get used to the new level and continue to offer the treats after each noise.
- Vary the volume – After two or three sessions (assuming your dog is reacting well), start to vary the volume. There should be a general increasing trend, but make the volume lower as well as higher, as this will give you a longer lasting and generally more effective response.
- Take your time – Take it easy and don’t rush the process. Like all of the most effective training, it takes time and regular practice to get the response you want to loud noises. Repeating the training every now and then will help too.
So, there you have it, some excellent advice for dog owners new and old, to get your pets used to sudden loud noises and condition them to deal with ‘Bangs’ over time. As ever, if you need any help, you can always contact our Rouken Glen Road practice on 0141 620 2580 to discuss your dog’s particular needs.
Fireworks are not really a seasonal ‘treat’ any more as they are now on sale all year round. This is not great news for naturally nervous animals, such as rabbits, hamsters, and guinea pigs. The majority of small furry pets are naturally afraid of loud noises. To help owners, our head vet Richard is highlighting four simple ways to manage your pet’s environment to best deal with scary sounds.
If the advice below doesn’t work for your pet, you should contact us and we can advise on alternative ways to keep your pet calm, such as the use of pheromone diffusers and sprays.
Many small furry pets spend a lot of their life in outdoor hutches, which means fireworks can be extremely frightening for them. To keep rabbits, guinea pigs (or any other small furry pet) happy and healthy when there are fireworks in the air, you should consider the following.
- Recognise the signs of stress. A change in eating habits, intense grooming, or scratching that causes fur to fall out, are common signs of a stressed pet. If your pet is stressed by noise, you should recognise the changes and take action.
- Give effective refuge. As you can’t necessarily predict when there will be noise. Always make sure your small furry pet has a safe space that’s naturally and effectively insulated from noise. Lots of fresh, clean bedding in a solid structure like a box is best.
- Bring them inside. At times of the year when you know the noise level will rise, (such as the period around bonfire night and New Year) bring pets inside to a quieter place.
- Mask the noise. If you have a house pet or you’ve brought your pet inside during a particularly noisy period, you should shut windows, draw curtains, and drop blinds to keep the noise and light show outside. Also, consider turning up the TV or radio to mask the worst of the outside noise.
What to do if these four actions fail
If your pet guinea pig, rabbit, rat or other rodent stops eating or shows other signs of extreme stress, they need to see a Vet as a matter of urgency. Alternatively, if you’ve been here before, followed the advice above and think you need more help, give us a call. Richard and the rest of our Rouken Glen Road team have lots of pet-specific advice and can recommend the most appropriate pheromone spray or diffuser to help calm your pet.