The bursts and bangs of July Fourth fireworks may mesmerize us with visual wonder, but our beloved pets perceive those unpredictable booming sounds as a threat. This triggers a dog’s or cat’s biological reaction to “fight or flee.” Some pets become defensive while others cower in fear--either way, it’s not good for your pet. Follow our tips for helping your pet remain calm and safe during “fireworks season.”
Fireworks can Trigger a Pet’s Fight or Flight Response
When a dog or cat perceives danger, it’s innate response is to fight or flee. This is called the stress response in both animals and humans. When the stress response is triggered,a cascade of hormones flood the body causing an increase in heart rate, breathing rate, and blood pressure. Basically, the stress response is designed to prepare the animal to defend itself.
When your cat or dog hears fireworks, she may hiss, growl, or bark relentlessly (and so ferociously, you might not recognize your pet!). Other pets may respond fearfully, causing them to cower and hide or even attempt to run away from your property.
Signs of an intense fear or self-defense response to fireworks also include:
Anxious behavior such as pacing
Change in appetite
Soiling inside the house or outside the litter box
Frantic digging that is not typical for your pet
Tips for Calming a Pet during Fireworks
Before you resort to medication, even if prescribed by a veterinarian (and please don’t give your pet other meds or herbs without speaking to a holistic vet), try the calming strategies indicated below.
If you already know from experience that your cat or dog has an intense reaction to fireworks, consult with an animal behaviorist who can help acclimate your pet to the booming sounds of fireworks. There are a variety of approaches an expert can utilize--and teach you to utilize--so that your pet can remain calm in the face of booming fireworks or other similarly loud sounds.
Calming Tips for Dogs Fearful of Fireworks
Walk your dog during daylight hours; avoid times when fireworks are being set off
Exercise them well throughout the day so they will be tired in the evening, and potentially less reactive to loud noise
Close windows and curtains to muffle the sound of fireworks
Put on music or tv to mask the firework sounds
Allow them to hide beneath furniture or cuddle close to you
Create a cozy den for them inside the home and close to you
If your dog wants to be away from you--RESPECT their signals for separation. Don’t force the dog to come out of hiding. He is doing what his biology is programmed to do to deal with the stress. Attempting to force a dog out of hiding could result in a bite. Likewise, do NOT “baby” the fearful pet--this attention only reinforces the fear response.
Tips for Calming Cats when Fireworks Go Off
Though generally more self-sufficient and less reactive than dogs, cats do get anxious. And if anything is going to provoke a cat to be moody, fireworks are near the top of the list.
The tips below apply specifically to cats, though some of the tips listed for dogs may apply to a cat, too. Likewise, RESPECT your cat’s desire to be in hiding. Forcing the kitty out of her safe space could result in a very nasty scratch or bite.
Provide hiding places in your home
Cats can become more stressed if they're outside during fireworks
Microchip your cats in case they're startled and escape outside
Keep extra scratch pads around the house
Firework phobia is a real and oftentimes treatable condition. If these tips do not help, or if you believe your pet has an intense reaction to loud noise, seek advice from your vet who will, if necessary, refer you to a professional animal behaviorist.
Don’t Leave Pets Home Alone on July Fourth!
If you are heading out to a fireworks display on July Fourth, don’t take your pet with you and don’t leave them home alone. Instead, hire the professional pet sitters from Kitten Sittin’ of Delaware and Weather or Not Dog Walkers. Our two teams specialize in making sure that your cat or dog receives the comfort and affection they need while you are away from home.
No need to worry about a mess to come home to because your dog or cat freaked out when the fireworks went off. On July Fourth, we will make sure your pet feels calm and secure. You’ll come home to a calm and happy pet! Contact us to learn more about all of our wonderful pet sitting services.
The Humane Society. Fireworks: Awesome for Humans, Terrifying for Pets
ASPCA. Fireworks and Your Pet: Tips for Staying Safe
Delaware.Gov. Ensure Your Pets are Safe During Fourth of July Festivities. https://news.delaware.gov/2017/06/29/4th-of-july-pet-safety/