Bonfire Night Fireworks and Our Pets

OSCAR Blog: Bonfire Night Fireworks and Our Pets

Bonfire night can be worrying and stressful for our cats, dogs and rabbits. Fireworks at this time of year can go on for several weeks before and after November 5th and this stress can have serious implications for our pets, affecting both health and behaviour, especially if experienced over long periods of time. If your pet becomes stressed during firework season, the following advice may help you to make your pet feel more safe and secure.

For Dogs: Signs of Stress

  • Panting
  • Pacing
  • Refusing to eat
  • Clinging to owner
  • House soiling
  • Barking
  • Salivating
  • Digging / scratching
  • Hiding away

How to Help Your Dog

Exercise your dog before it gets dark in order to reduce the risk of experiencing firework whilst you are out. If this is not possible, try walking your dog in the morning and playing indoor stimulation games and activities in the evening instead.

For example:

If your dog becomes a little jumpy at this time of year it is a good idea to exercise your dog on a recall lead so that you have safe control of your dog in case it decides to bolt. Close all windows, vents, curtains and connecting doors in the house to help drown out the sights and sounds of fireworks.

Put some background noise on, such as the TV or radio. Playing music with a strong beat can reduce your dog's worry over loud or unpredictable bangs from fireworks.

Allow your dog to rest where it feels the safest. This may be under your bed, under the table, down the side of the sofa, or under your legs. Placing your dog's bed in this safe place, will comfort them.

If you are not sure where your dog's safe place is, you can try creating a den for your dog instead. Dog crates are a great way to do this. Introduce the crate a few weeks before bonfire night for your dog to get use to, then place their bed inside to make the area nice and comfortable. Covering the crate with a duvet or thick sheet will help to drown out the noise of the fireworks.

Do not leave your dog at home alone on bonfire night. They will always feel more relaxed and secure with you around.

It can be hard to see our dogs in distress at this time of year, and it can cause a lot of worry. If you can, try to stay nice and relaxed on bonfire night. Dogs are very in-tune with our emotions, and if we appear worried and anxious, this may make things worse for them.

If your dog does become distressed, do comfort and love them! Don't worry, it's not possible to reinforce the emotion of fear. Comfort and reassurance can help your dog feel better.

The motion of licking and chewing can also help to relax dogs. Try giving your dog a kong packed with something they find tasty and rewarding, or give them a rawhide or bone.

Beaphar Calming Spot has been designed to help alleviate stress and anxiety. The spot on treatment contains Valerian extract, a herbal supplement noted for its calming properties. If you are concerned about the degree of anxiety your dog shows during the bonfire season, speak to your vet about anxiety treatment. Behavioural therapy can also help to teach your dog to cope with the unpredictability of fireworks, through reward based desensitisation of the noises. It can take many months of work with your dog to alter their behaviour towards such noises, but in the long term this will make your dog a happier pet during this time of year and reduce their stress. For more information speak to a qualified behaviourist who will be able to work through the process with you and your dog.

For Cats: Signs of Stress

  • Hiding in high places
  • Hiding in dark places
  • Running away
  • House soiling
  • Refusing to eat
  • Increased aggression
  • Salivating

How to Help Your Cat

If your cat enjoys going outside, make sure they are back indoors before dark. This is for their safety. The unpredictable nature of fireworks could mean one landing in a tree your cat is has climbed, or flying sparks could injure them.

The sights and sounds of fireworks can also be frightening, so do make sure they are safe inside.

Put some background noise on, such as the TV or radio. Playing music with a strong beat can reduce your cat's worry over loud and unpredictable bangs from fireworks.

Allow your cat to rest where it feels really safe. This may be under your bed, under the table, down the side of the sofa, or under your legs. Putting your cat's bed here will make it more comfortable for them.

Close all windows, cat flaps, vents, curtains and connecting doors in the house to help drown out the sights and sounds of fireworks.

Don't pick up or restrain your cat if they appear stressed. Cats appreciate a quiet space to deal with their stress on their own.

If your cat does come to you for comfort and reassurance, it's fine to give them this.

Cats naturally like to climb and hide at different levels in their environment. This meets their instinctive needs and makes them feel safe. Take a look around your home and see what different levels you can provide for your cat to express this behaviour during bonfire season.

Do not leave your cat at home alone on bonfire night. They will feel more relaxed and secure with you around.

During the bonfire season your cat may be less inclined to go outside. You may need to introduce a litter tray into the house. See our 'Cats and Stress' blog for advice on litter tray numbers and size.

Beaphar Calming Spot has been designed to help alleviate stress and anxiety. The spot on treatment contains Valerian extract, a herbal supplement noted for its calming properties.

Behavioural therapy can also teach your cat to cope with the unpredictability of fireworks using reward based desensitisation of the noises. It can take many months of work with your cat to alter their behaviour to the noises, but long term this will make your cat a happier pet during this difficult time of year. For more information try speaking to a qualified behaviourist who will be able to work through process with you and your cat.

For Rabbits: Signs of Stress

  • Stamping feet
  • Staying motionless
  • Trying to escape
  • Loss of appetite

How to Help Your Rabbit

If your Rabbit hutch is outdoors, try moving it inside to the garage or conservatory.

If you are unable to move the hutch indoors, place the hutch so it is facing a wall or fence and cover with a duvet to help drown out the noise and lights.

If your Rabbit lives indoors, try to drown out the fireworks with background noise such as the radio or the TV.

Close all the windows and curtains and lock the cat flap, if you have one.

Make sure your Rabbit has somewhere safe to hide. Adding extra straw or hay in the hutch for your Rabbit to burrow in helps to make them feel safe. Alternatively, an up turned cardboard box with an entrance cut out and some bedding inside will create a really secure den for your Rabbit.

Check on your Rabbit regularly, and if you notice any signs of stress then contact your vet for advice.

We hope this advice is useful for you and your pet family. Maybe your friends and family would like to read this too? Please feel free to share...

If you'd like bespoke advice from our behaviourist Shelley; give us a call on 0800 195 8000 or email helpline@oscars.co.uk or contact us and we'll call you back.

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