With bonfire night just around the corner, many pet owners worry that the season will mean increased stress for their pets. Lots of animals are afraid of the loud sounds and flashing lights that accompany fireworks, but there are lots of ways to make sure that your pet feels as comfortable and safe as possible on the night.
Speaking ahead of bonfire night, Andrew Bucher, Chief Veterinary Officer at MedicAnimal, said:
“What is undoubtedly an exciting and fun time of the year, particularly for children, is one of the most stressful for animals. Many pet owners are not aware of the extent to which their animals can be affected. Dogs can hear around twice amount of sound frequencies to humans, and cats over three times, so they are extra sensitive to loud noises like fireworks. However, there are things owners can do to make pets as calm as possible. It is important to remember that it is not just bonfire night itself, but the weeks before as the fireworks start to go up, and we all need to do more to ensure our pets are safe and calm through this period.”
Top tips: dogs and cats
1) Always keep your cats and dogs inside on bonfire night. It’s important that they feel free to hide in a place they’re familiar with if they want to, so if they want to run off and hide behind the sofa or under the bed – do let them.
2) Walk your dog early in the night, before it gets dark if possible. Keep them on the lead so they don’t run off if they get scared.
3) Create a den for your cat or dog using a cardboard box or puppy cage covered in some of their favourite blankets, which will block out the noise and flashing lights. If you do this, get them used to sleeping in the den in the period coming up to bonfire night so that they find it a relaxing and safe space. Don’t lock them in the cage though – they should be able to escape if they want to.
4) Although it might be tempting to cuddle and fuss over your pet, this can reinforce their feelings of stress and fear. Remain calm and try and distract your pet by playing a game or with treats.
5) Dogs and cats are more likely to drink more when they’re stressed so make sure their water bowl is accessible and full at all times.
6) There are several products on the market which can really help cats and dogs stay calm in times of stress. Look out for Feliway for cats, a synthetic copy of the feline facial pheromone, which comes as a spray or diffuser and which helps create a soothing atmosphere for your cat. You could try Calmex for your dog, which is a combination of amino acids, plant extract, and B-vitamins. There are lots of products on the market, so always speak to your vet first to find out which is best for your pet.
Top tips: horses and ponies
1) Try to keep your horse’s routine as normal as possible on bonfire night. In most cases it’s best to keep your horse stabled at night and give it lots of hay to distract it, even if they usually live out.
2) If possible, close the barn doors and play the radio or music to help cover up the sounds. Sometimes it’s also recommended to put cotton wool in your horse’s ears to muffle the sound further. Get your horse used to this as much as possible before the event and obviously use common sense – don’t do it if it will be another cause of stress.
3) Make sure your horse’s stable is secure and that they can’t escape. There should be nothing in the stable that can injure them if they start pacing or getting stressed, so make sure there are no low-hanging hay nets that they can get their hooves caught in, protruding nails, or any other dangerous hazards.
4) If you think your horse will get so stressed it will injure itself you should speak to your vet about sedation and whether this could be a good option for you and your horse.
5) Put your own safety first – horses are flight animals and if they get scared very little will stand in the way of their escape. If you’re worried, keep your riding helmet on when you’re around your horse on bonfire night and don’t stay in enclosed spaces with your horse if it is getting stressed.
Top tips: small animals
1) If your small pet usually lives outside, try to move their cage indoors or into a shed or garage.
2) Cover their cage with blankets to help block out the light and some of the sound.
3) Give your rabbit, hamster, or guinea pig extra bedding so that they can burrow down and make a den.
4) Try to distract your pet by hiding treats in their bedding to keep them occupied.
5) Never have your own firework display or bonfire near your pet – if you really want to do it make sure that their hutch or cage is far enough away.