Unlike us humans, our pets are rarely big firework fans. Having no understanding why Bonfire Night should be noisier and brighter compared with other nights of the year, unsurprisingly both confuses and generates high levels of stress for our four-legged friends.
So we must anticipate how best to protect their welfare needs, otherwise our poor pets risk suffering both short and long term behavioural problems, phobias, and even serious injury.
Luckily nowadays our knowledge of animal behaviour is far better than ever before, with a growing number of safe treatments and solutions available; all specifically designed to help our frightened pets on Guy Fawkes Night and help them cope with strange loud noises, and flashing lights.
If you think your pet will become upset, make an appointment with your vet to discuss anxiety-reducing products such as calming tablets, diffusers, and sprays; with more severe cases possibly requiring stronger medication and/or help from a qualified animal behaviourist.
Signs of canine stress can include shaking, crying, barking, hiding, panting, restlessness, and appearing ‘flat’, both mentally and physically. Frightened felines may start soiling indoors, excessively grooming, or even become aggressive to owners, so please keep felines inside after dark, not forgetting to provide a litter tray.
Remember to provide somewhere safe for terrified pets to hide, such as a snug and secure ‘den’, ideally piled high with plenty of extra bedding to bury themselves in, and perhaps an unwashed piece of your clothing thrown in too, e.g. old woolly jumper. Turning up the TV or radio will also help drown out scary bangs and horrible whizzes.
Owners should always remain calm around stressed pets, sending out happy signals and helping prevent pets from picking up that anything might be different. Reward good behaviour with favourite treats and toys, but don’t be surprised or annoyed if they refuse.
Dogs may be too nervous to eat or even go to the toilet later on, so please feed and walk all pooches before dusk, offering a large meal heavy in carbs on their return - which can often like with us, encourage sleep too.
Draw curtains tightly shut blocking out lights and further minimising noise; as well as ensuring all doors, windows, and cat/dog flaps are firmly closed. Dogs should wear collar and tag identification, and like cats, should already be microchipped (with details up to date), in case of any panicked escapes.
Keep water bowls topped up as anxious pets often pant and may drink more. Check where and when local displays are being held, and make sure you ask your neighbours if they’re planning a display.
Never lock pets away alone, or punish them when scared, tie them up outside, or even take your dog along to a firework display forcing them to face their fears – they’ll only become more frightened.
Rabbits and small mammals should be brought inside, given more bedding to burrow into, with cages and aviaries party covered. Remember to check all bonfires for sleeping hedgehogs before lighting too.
Follow these tips and you and your pets will hopefully experience a safer and stress-free Fireworks Night!