Why Are Pets Scared of Fireworks & What Can You Do to Help
There’s no arguing that fireworks are beautiful, but those colourful sparks that fill us with joy can be incredibly distressing for our pets as well as local wildlife. With fireworks being used for celebrations such as Bonfire Night or New Year, it can be hard to prepare your pet or help to calm them down during the fireworks. In this article we take a look at the effect fireworks can have on your pet, as well as what you can do to help them.
Why Are Animals Scared of Fireworks?
There are a number of reasons why fireworks can be scary for pets, and it’s important that we as pet owners understand these fears so we can help pets feel safe and relaxed during them.
Fireworks are loud, even to human ears, so when an animal hears a firework go off, their sensitive hearing means it's so much louder for them and can quickly make them become spooked, especially as no one ever sets off a single firework, but multiple in quick succession. A dog’s hearing is up to four times better than a human’s, and a cat's hearing is even more so.
Fireworks also don’t just go “bang”, some of them hiss and fizz, which are sounds many pets are not familiar with. If a firework is loud enough to make your ears ring, you can only imagine how loud they are for your pets. Plus, pets don’t know what the sound is, or that it can’t hurt them, meaning many animals are terrified as they register the sound as a threat.
Fireworks are also extremely bright and colourful, which is most of their appeal, but the bright lights and flashing can also be incredibly distressing for pets as they don’t understand what it is they’re seeing, and that paired with the loud noise and unpredictability can quickly trigger your pet’s fight-or-flight response.
Signs your Pet is Scared of Fireworks
If your pet is afraid of fireworks or loud noises in general, then it’s more than likely you’ll see a fear response in them when fireworks start to go off. This could be shown through signs of fear or anxiety such as hiding, whimpering, and other behavioural changes which we have detailed below.
For some pets, the flight response is very literal, and if there is a door or a window left open enough for them to get through, they may even try to run away from the sound entirely without any thought to the dangers outside the home. For pets who spend most or all of their time inside, this can be extremely dangerous as they don’t understand external hazards such as traffic.
Keeping Your Pet Safe During Fireworks
With any celebrations and festivities, it can be hard to enjoy fireworks season while you’re worrying about your pet. So, we’ve made a list of ways you can help keep your pet safe and calm during this time.
- Keep your pet indoors with all windows and doors closed and curtains drawn. This will help keep the sound of the fireworks to a minimum and reduce the risk of them running away. You should especially not take your pet to any fireworks displays with you as the noise will be even louder and can do permanent damage to their hearing.
- Keep them distracted. You can do this by giving them distracting toys like chews to take their mind off of the noise. You can also try turning the TV on or playing music a little louder. Build them a safe space. This could be their bed or favourite sleeping spot, and try to make it comfortable for them with food and toys.
- Have someone stay with your pet if possible to try and create a normal environment for them to feel more comfortable. If you ignore the sound of the fireworks, your pet may realise they’re not a threat, easing some of their anxiety.
How to Calm Dogs During Fireworks
If you know firework season is coming up, make sure you plan ahead and provide your dog with a safe haven. This should be a quiet area and a place where your dog feels safe and in control. Provide your dog with some of their favourite things or give them a dog toy such as a Kong and stuff it with treats or peanut butter to distract them.
Ways to help your dog during fireworks:
- Walk your dog during daylight hours to get their energy out before the fireworks start.
- Make sure there are things you can do so your dog isn’t left alone while in their safe haven.
- Close windows and curtains to muffle sounds and lights from the fireworks.
- Put on some music or turn up the TV to mask the sounds of the fireworks.
- Ignore and don’t draw attention to the fireworks or the noises.
- Try to play with your dog or give them a filled KONG to distract them.
If your dog is anxious and seems stressed out or afraid of fireworks, you can also try Dog Calmer. These come in diffusers, spot-ons and more, which are filled with calming chemicals to aid in calming your dog during fireworks. In some cases, your vet may even prescribe Dog Anxiety Medication, which can help your dog with fireworks.
How to Calm Cats During Fireworks
Like dogs, you should provide a calm and quiet hiding place in your home for your cat to be during the fireworks. Other ways you can help cats during fireworks are:
- Keep your cat indoors to avoid them being scared by the loud bangs.
- If your cat is hiding in their safe area, don’t tempt them out, leave them until they are ready.
- Make sure that you are around your cat so they know you are there, and try to give them any Cat Toys or boredom breakers to distract them.
- You can also try Cat Calmers to help your cat during fireworks.
Keeping Outdoor Pets Safe During Fireworks
It’s not just cats and dogs that find fireworks distressing. Outdoor pets such as rabbits, guinea pigs and horses can also suffer during this time from all the noise and lights. Here we’ve put together ways to keep these animals safe from fireworks.
Small Pets And Fireworks
If you have a small pet such as a rabbit, hamster, bird, or other types of small animals, here are ways that you can help them during fireworks:
- Cover cages or pens with blankets so it’s soundproofed and hidden, but leave space so the animal can look out and know they're safe.
- Provide bedding for small animals to burrow and make a safe space.
- For outside cages, consider moving them indoors where possible so that the sound is muffled. This may need to be done gradually, so plan ahead.
How to Keep Horses Safe During Fireworks
- If your horse is outside, give them plenty of hay to keep them occupied.
- If stabled, put a radio on to mask the noise of the fireworks, but make sure that the horse can’t access the radio.
- Check on your horse regularly to make sure they are okay and they know they’re not alone.
- If you know there are going to be fireworks in your area, try to talk to the organisers to explain there are horses nearby and see if they can set them off in the opposite direction.
- For extra help, you can try Horse Calmers to try and ease any anxiety or stress your horse may have from fireworks.
For more, check out the British Horse Society (BHS) for advice on Keeping Your Horse Safe During Fireworks.
How to Protect Wildlife During Fireworks
Keeping animals calm during fireworks season goes beyond just the pets in your care. Local wildlife and even other people's animals are likely to be frightened, too, but there are some things you can do to help lessen the blow for them.
- Go to an organised fireworks display rather than purchasing your own to lessen the amount being set off and reduce the noise. Or, try and choose low-noise fireworks.
- Make sure if you are setting off your fireworks that they aren’t being set off near any livestock, and inform people in the local area who do have animals that there will be a display nearby so they can prepare.
- Do not set off fireworks near any known habitat spots for local wildlife, such as lakes, ponds or trees that may have animals nesting in them. Also, make sure to check the area you’re planning to use for any signs of burrows or nests.
- For Bonfire Night, always check your bonfire before lighting it as hibernating animals such as hedgehogs may sometimes crawl inside them to hibernate.
By following our advice, we hope you can lessen the impact that fireworks can have on your pets and keep them feeling happy, safe and secure. If you find an animal in distress, get in touch with local charities like the PDSA and RSPCA for help, who work tirelessly during this period to respond to calls of animals in distress or have been injured because of fireworks.
Stay safe, keep your pets and other animals safe, and enjoy the fireworks season.
This post is an opinion and should only be used as a guide. You should discuss any change to your pet’s care or lifestyle thoroughly with your vet before starting any program or treatment.