Bonfire night and the nights and weekends leading up to it means pretty, colourful displays of light across our skies with shrieks of ‘ooooohs’ and ‘aaaaahs’. However it is often not a mutual feeling for our four-legged friends. If you know that your pet is likely to be anxious or apprehensive during this season, it is highly recommended to plan ahead and prepare your pet for the big nights ahead.
One of the best ways of reducing your pet’s stress levels is by doing something called ‘desensitisation’ or ‘acclimation’. This basically means that exposing your pet to the sounds that worry them in small low volume doses will help them to get used to it and learn that it is nothing to worry about. This can be done by gradually increasing the sound and the length of exposure over a period of time. You can download suitable firework sounds from YouTube or via the Dogs Trust website. When taking your pet through desensitisation, always do it just before something more fun that they enjoy, such as dinner-time, ‘walkies’, play-time or cuddle-time. This type of approach associates the sound with positivity rather than negativity.
Make a den
If your pet isn’t going to get used to the sounds, another idea is to create a den for them, somewhere they can hide that is quiet, calm and where they feel safe. Make the den away from any windows or doors or any noisy appliances. If making a hideaway for cats, maybe consider looking for somewhere higher up as their natural instinct is to be at height.
It is also recommended to have the area covered over so that your pet can climb in and hide if they want to. An area like this should be set up weeks beforehand to give your pet time to adjust. Try to encourage them to use the space for playing with toys but take care to leave it as their space. You should only enter if they want you to, otherwise, leave them to it and let them be free to come and go as they please.
There are calming diffusers, sprays and treats available on the market. We recommend using Pet Remedy which is a natural, clinically-proven calming spray. All pets can benefit from using Pet Remedy, including dogs, cats, rabbits, rodents, birds and reptiles! When your pet becomes stressed or anxious, Pet Remedy helps to trick nerve cells into thinking they’re getting a message from the brain to remain calm. This is why it starts to help instantly. This is available to purchase in surgery.
If none of the natural methods are going to help your pet, we can offer pets medication to help them remain calm. If you need this, please contact us to arrange an appointment.
On the day…
- Walk your dog during the daylight hours so that they are good and tired come evening time.
- Keep your cats indoors and lock the cat flap – make sure they have a litter tray and that they are used to it and aware that it is there.
- Close the windows and curtains to reduce the noise and the visible flashes of light.
- Turn on the TV/ radio or let them watch their favourite YouTube channel. Set the volume just loud enough to muffle out the sound of fireworks. Try to keep yourself calm too. If you are anxious about their behaviour, they will pick up on this. Talk reassuringly to them but do not make a fuss. Act as though everything is A-O-K! If you are frightened, this may convince them that there is something to fear!
- If they are hiding in their den, don’t try to coax them out, leave them to come and go when they want to.
- If they are behaving calmly, praise them for being brave. If not, don’t scold them for being anxious.
- If your dog has a big brave friend who is not scared of fireworks, invite them around to play together.
- Don’t forget to have your pet microchipped beforehand just in case all of the above fails and they manage to escape. At least this way you will have the best chance of getting them back!
As a final word, if you are responsible for lighting a bonfire, please be conscious that if the bonfire has been pre-built for days or weeks before being lit, it will have become a hotel for hedgehogs trying to settle in for their winter nap. Please try to ensure that there are none sleeping in the bonfire before lighting it by either moving the whole lot by 20m or lifting the bottom layer and listening for any sign of movement.