Bonfire night: How to keep pet dogs and cats calm during fireworks

Firework displays were largely called off last year during Diwali and Bonfire Night due to the coronavirus pandemic, but many events are planning to go ahead this year.

While the spectacles are enjoyed by people across the UK, our furry friends often find the loud bangs and sudden flashes of light stressful and scary, which could lead to anxiety or running away.

Research published by The Kennel Club last month showed that the number of dogs that go missing in the UK doubles during fireworks season, which usually falls in the first week of November.

Eight in 10 owners say they notice a significant change in their pet’s behaviour during this period, and a survey of 1,000 owners found that one third of dogs are “terrified” of the displays.

This is because dogs can hear four times the distance that a human can hear, and can hear higher pitched sounds, at a frequency range of 67-45,000 Hz.

Here are top tips for keeping your dogs and cats safe this firework season:

Walk your dog early

The RSPCA says that walking your dog during daylight hours to avoid times when fireworks are likely to be set off will minimise the risk of them getting frightened and running away.

It is also imperative to ensure your pet is microchipped to make sure you can find them if they do escape out of fear.

Keep your cat indoors after sundown

If your cat usually roams around outdoors, it is a good idea to get them indoors before sunset if you know there will be fireworks in your area.

Experts from All About Cats recommend keeping all windows shut and the cat flap locked during this period, and giving them a new toy or treat to distract them.

Keep the sound down

The loud bangs from fireworks being set off can be scary for pets, who might think they are in danger. Closing all the windows and doors and drawing the curtains to block out any flashes will help to minimise their fear, and you can also turn on the television or radio to distract them.

Adem Fehmi, a canine behaviourist from Rover, suggests: “Play calming music to drown out or at least soften the sound of any fireworks that may be let off. I like to play Classic FM loudly on fireworks night until I am sure that the fireworks have finished.”

Create a safe space

The Kennel Club and the Blue Cross both recommend creating a den for your pets filled with their favourite toys and blankets. Here, they can hide from the loud sounds outside if they want to.

Avoid trying to coax them out of their safe space before they are ready as this will only stress them out further. This is particularly applicable for cats – instead, leave them where they feel safe and secure, and they will come out in their own time.

“Before fireworks season begins, get your pet microchipped and, if they already are, check your contact details are up to date,” says the Blue Cross.

“This is really important as it gives you the best chance of being reunited with your cat if they become spooked and get lost amid the bangs and crashes.”

Remain calm

To keep your pet feeling reassured, you should avoid making a big fuss about the noise because this “can unintentionally signal to your dog that there is something to be afraid of.”

Fehmi adds: “In fact, we want to be helping our dog to understand that there is nothing to fear. Although we want our dogs to feel that we are there for them, we want to show our dogs that there is nothing to be afraid of by modelling the desired behaviour and remaining calm ourselves.”

Do not take them to a fireworks display

The Blue Cross strongly advises against taking any pets to a fireworks display, even if they are quiet.

If you do end up being outside during the fireworks with your dog, keep a close eye on them. Excessive panting and yawning is a stress indicator and means you should take them somewhere safe immediately.

What to do with smaller animals

If you have outdoor pets, such as chickens, you can partly cover cages, pens and aviaries with blankets so that one area is sound-proofed, but make sure they are still able to look out.

You should also provide plenty of extra bedding for them to burrow in, and consider bringing them indoors until the fireworks are over.

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