I am very lucky, my dog, Ollie doesn’t bat an eyelid at fireworks, in fact if we’re out on an evening walk and a firework goes off I probably jump more than he does. But Ollie is a rarity, for many pets and their owner’s bonfire night, and fireworks at any time of the year, are extremely stressful, And of course, they can be hazardous for garden wildlife too.
So today we are taking a look at how to do the best for the animals in our lives on bonfire night.
Dogs and Cats
Probably the majority of dogs, and many cats, react badly to the loud noises and bright flashing lights of bonfire night. If your pet is stressed by fireworks there are some simple steps you can take to make him more comfortable.
For dogs, take a long walk on the day if you can, or spend some time playing with your pooch or puss. The more tired they are the better.
Feed early, and a slightly bigger meal than normal, we all tend to like a nap after a good meal.
Unless you have one of those rare dogs or cats who just doesn’t care about fireworks, it’s best to keep them indoors on bonfire night if at all possible.
Get your evening walk done early and take the cat prisoner when it comes in for an afternoon feed.
If you fail to capture your cat, a favourite blanket left in her cat house will at least provide comforting smells and something to hide under.
Shut out the Problem
Once you are all safely tucked up indoors, do everything you can to shut out the noise.
Close the windows and doors, draw the curtains and maybe put on some soothing music, or the TV. Classic FM’s Pet Classics is a popular option.
Make a Den
Make sure you have a safe space where your dog or cat can hide away and shelter. This might be a crate or an indoor cat house, or it could be a table or the space under the stairs.
If you can, drape a heavy blanket over the top, and put a favourite bed or blanket – something that smells comforting – inside.
Make sure your pet is free to come and go as they wish. They may be comforted by cuddles with you, or they might need their own space.
Distraction can help. Playing games or introducing a new toy could take your pet’s mind off what’s going on outside.
On the other hand your pet might not be in the mood for play. Take your lead from them – particularly with a dog, don’t stress them out further by making them feel they have to play to please you, when they would rather be curled up in a corner.
If you are stressed your pets will pick up on this and it’ll just make the situation worse.
Try to keep to your normal routine as much as possible. Try not to sit there waiting anxiously for the next bang and checking on your pet to see how they are every five minutes.
If things do go badly try to keep as calm as you can. It’s heartbreaking seeing your pet in distress – but getting upset yourself will just make the situation worse.
Some animals who are very stressed may be sick, there might be a little bit of pee, or even poo in the house. Just try to take it all in your stride.
Talk to Your Vet
If the normal calming measures aren’t enough for your pet, he may have firework phobia. This is a real and treatable condition and your vet can advise on the best way forward.
There is also the option of pheromone diffusers. Which can be very effective with some stressed animals. Again, your vet will offer advice.
Rabbits and Guinea Pigs
We tend to focus on dogs and cats when we think about stress caused by fireworks, But small pets can be affected too, especially if they live outdoors.
Can They Come Indoors?
Bringing your outdoor pets into the house may be a good option for bonfire night. One of our indoor hutches can be good to have on hand for this sort of short-term accommodation.
If it’s not possible to bring them into the house could you move the hutch into a garage or shed for the night?
Block Out the Bangs and Flashes
If bringing your small pets into the house, or moving them into a garage or shed for the night isn’t an option try to turn the hutch so it is facing a wall or fence, rather than looking straight out into the open.
Then cover it with a heavy blanket or duvet – making sure to leave some ventilation. This will help to block out the sights and sounds of bonfire night.
Feed Early and Feed Plenty.
Stress can cause loss of appetite, and we know how quickly this can become a problem for rabbits and guinea pigs. So be sure to offer your pets plenty of food and treats early in the day during the firework season, so their digestive tracts have plenty to work with, even if they are off their food for a few hours.
Somewhere to Hide
Safely in Numbers
Rabbits and guinea pigs are both very social animals and they will draw comfort from being close to bonded companions during times of stress. Be sure that your pets have the option of being together or alone in their hutch on bonfire night.
This is not an ideal time to introduce a new pet. And if pets are not fully bonded it may be best to separate them for bonfire night as fear can sometimes be expressed as aggression.
Bonfire night can be extremely hazardous for garden wildlife too.
Birds are known to be negatively affected by the flashes and bangs of fireworks.
PLEASE Check Your Bonfire for Hedgehogs!
If you are having your own bonfire, please, please, please check it for hedgehogs or other wildlife. A nice big pile of wood and garden rubbish looks like a perfect place to shelter for most wildlife.
Never build your bonfire ahead of time, build it on the afternoon that you plan to use it. Then give all areas of the pile a good, gentle poke with a blunt stick before you light it, to give any wildlife a chance to escape.
Minimising the Impact of Bonfire Night on Animals.
Bonfire night is a traditional festival that goes back way before Guy Fawkes – it’s lots of fun for humans, but it can be a stressful and dangerous time for animals. You can minimise the impact by:
- Choosing an organised display. These tend to be a little further from people’s homes and pets than your back garden might be. Getting together with others also minimises the number of fireworks going off – and it’s fun!
- Choosing low-noise fireworks. Whilst it’s next to impossible to make a “silent firework, low noise options are widely sold now, so if you are going to have your own display, choose these.
Bonfire night can be a stressful time for animal lovers, but with a bit of pre-planning, and consideration from everyone we humans should be able to celebrate without causing upset to our animal friends.