To people, fireworks are breathtaking displays of light and sound, and the longer and louder they are, the more fun there is to be had. Unfortunately, for animals, fireworks tend to be mysterious and frightening; the flashes of color and booming cracks can make some pets so panicked that they behave erratically, even violently, around those they usually love and trust.
Fortunately, there is a way to keep your furry friends calm during fireworks shows. Here are some tips to use this summer, when you or your town start lighting fireworks for fun:
Just as you sleep better after a good workout, your pet is less likely to waste energy on stress when they are tuckered out from exercise. During the day before a fireworks show, you should devote an hour or two to giving your pet a good running. You might take your dog to the dog park or on a leashed walk or hike; with cats, you can give them a good play session with toys that make them move, or you might offer catnip to give them some energy. A good amount of attention and activity could help them stay calm when the fireworks start.
Dogs can hear sounds four times farther than human ears can detect, and cats are much more sensitive to the higher and lower ends of the audible spectrum than humans are. Suffice it to say that your pets are probably going to hear the big booms of mortar fireworks launched from the park down the street, but they might not notice firework shows that take place a few miles away if you take the right precautions.
When you know that a fireworks display is imminent — like on Fourth of July or a big game day — you should keep all doors and windows closed tight, which will muffle the sounds of pops and crackles. You might also pull closed any shutters, blinds or curtains, which can also impede the movement of sound. If you aren’t going to be home to comfort your pet during a fireworks show, you might leave on a source of sound, like the television or the radio, which can again cover the noise of fireworks and distract your pet, to boot.
The typical animal response to anxiety is to hide until a threat seems to pass. If your pet doesn’t have a place where they can hide and feel safe, you should provide one during fireworks season. A crate of an appropriate size filled with cozy pillows is an excellent hiding space, as is a soft, covered pet bed like a cuddle cave. If you can’t invest in either of these solutions, you should at least create some kind of fort for your pets using cushions and blankets or allow them to cower in confined spaces like beneath your desk or inside your closet.
If your pet doesn’t hide, they might try to run away from the scary sound of fireworks. Unfortunately, panicked pets don’t always choose the best paths around your neighborhood, especially as the booms and bangs continue throughout their escape. Animal control officials report a 30 to 60 percent increase in the number of lost pets between July 4 and 6, when Americans light off the most fireworks. Some of these pets are struck by vehicles, others attacked by wild animals and others simply vanish, never to return.
You need to be sure that your pet cannot get outside at any point during a fireworks show. If you have pet flaps to your yard, you should seal them before fireworks begin, and you should suspend outdoor privileges until your pet has thoroughly calmed down after the fireworks cease. If you absolutely must let your pet outside, you should keep them leashed to foil any frightened flights.
Most pets are comforted by the presence of their owners, so it is best for you to be by their side while fireworks are going off. You should offer them unwavering support and affection, petting them and providing treats, to show that you are not upset and that they have no reason to be, either. However, if your pet doesn’t seem interested in your attention — if they flatten their ears, growl or hiss, back away or otherwise behave aggressively — you might just let them be until the fireworks show ends.
Fireworks are undeniably fun — for people. If your pet starts showing signs of distress during a fireworks display, you should do what you can to comfort and calm them, even if that means moving your pyrotechnic antics far away from your furry friend.