Fireworks and bonfire night - a step-by-step plan for your pet
Fireworks and bonfire night celebrations are usually an exciting time for us, but can be a source of stress for our pets. Research from the RSPCA shows 54% of cats and 62% of dogs show signs of distress when they hear fireworks, so it’s important we do everything we can to help them feel calm and reassured during this stressful time.
Planning for fireworks this year has added challenges, with the country still coping with and adapting to COVID-19 restrictions. Many organised firework displays have been cancelled or reduced numbers to accommodate social distancing. Different postcodes have different rules regarding social gatherings, so it’s possible more families will choose to celebrate bonfire night at home. With multiple fireworks going off in the days leading up to and following November 5th, this could lead to greater feelings of stress or anxiety for our pets, so it’s important to know how help calm them.
How can I calm my cat or dog during fireworks?
There are several things you can do to help calm your cat or dog if they’re scared of fireworks. Closing the curtains, turning up the TV volume or putting music on can all help drown out the noise and light from fireworks, and help calm your cat or dog down. If your pet goes off to hide, that’s okay too and you should let them do so (providing they aren’t hiding somewhere they could be hurt).
But, the best thing you can do to help keep your cat or dog calm during fireworks is to make sure you’re prepared before fireworks start going off. To help you out, we’ve created this step-by-step guide so you and your pet can be fireworks ready.
How do I prepare my cat or dog for fireworks?
Our cats and dogs will never be completely prepared for fireworks, but there are things you can do and steps you can take to help them get through it.
- Find out when fireworks or Bonfire Night events are happening in your area
- Play some firework noises to help your pet get accustomed to the bangs
- Make sure your pet’s microchip and collar information is up-to-date
- Create a den where your pet can hide during fireworks
- Play some firework noises to help your pet get accustomed to the bangs
Step one: Research fireworks and bonfire night events in your area
While many firework displays have been cancelled this year due to COVID-19, others have reduced numbers or swapped to a ‘drive-in’ style, so do check whether firework events in your local area are going ahead. Because of the ongoing COVID-19 restrictions, more families may choose to have fireworks in their gardens. If you’re friendly with your neighbours, pop a note through their door asking if they’re planning on setting off fireworks.
Knowing these details means you can plan ahead for your pet, and help reduce any stress your cat or dog may experience from fireworks.
Step two: Check your pet’s microchip and collar information is up to date
As owners, we'll do all we can to make sure our pets don’t get scared and run off during fireworks. But, if they do you’ll want to make sure you are reunited with them as quickly as possible.
When in a public place, all dogs must wear a collar with their owner’s name and address on, so make sure this is correct too. It’s also a legal requirement for all dogs to be microchipped. To remain compliant your contact details must be up-to-date. We recommend doing the same for cats.
For more information about microchipping, you can visit these helpful links:
Step three: Create a pet den where your cat or dog can hide during fireworks
Fireworks can last a long time, and one of your pet’s reactions to fireworks could be to run and hide. As you don’t know how long your cat or dog will hide, you want your pet to be as comfortable as possible.
Your cat or dog may retreat to a place in your home that feels familiar and safe. If they already have a favourite place or ‘safe zone’, try to make it more firework proof and create a pet den.
How to make a firework den for your cat or dog
- Find a place or room where your cat or dog usually spends most of their time.
- Use a duvet or blankets to cover your pet’s den or create the roof. The thick material helps muffle the sound of fireworks. Pegs can be useful for keeping them in place.
- Add some clothing that smells of you to help soothe your pet and some extra bedding to make the space even more cosy.
- Place some toys and treats inside. This will help your cat or dog create a positive association with the den, and they will feel happier being there.
- To provide additional reassurance, you could also use a calming product in the den or room. We recommend the Beaphar CatComfort® or Beaphar CaniComfort® Calming Diffusers. These release pheromones into the room that promote feelings of reassurance, and are effective for up to 30 days. Just plug in the required cat or dog diffuser around a week before you expect fireworks.
Use a Beaphar CaniComfort Calming Diffuser in your pet's firework den to help them feel calmer
If your pet retreats to their pet den during fireworks it’s important not to try and tempt them out – this can cause further stress for cats and dogs. It’s better to feed pets before fireworks start, but if your pet hasn’t eaten you can leave a small amount of food in the room/pet den so they can eat if they wish. Be careful not to leave too much food; nerves and anxiety can make cats and dogs feel sick, causing them more stress.
Always leave a bowl of water in the room/pet den too so your pet can stay hydrated. Dogs in particular can get dehydrated when stressed, so access to water is important.
Step four: Prepare your pet for fireworks
Around late October, play some firework sounds in your house. Don’t turn the volume up really high, but do make sure your cat or dog can hear it. Once they are comfortable with the noise level, you can gradually begin to increase the volume each time you play the sounds as long as your pet is not showing signs of stress.
This will help them to get used to the noise, so when fireworks start going off in the days leading up to and following November 5th your pet is more accustomed to the noise.
The Dog’s Trust’s ‘Sounds Scary’ programme has been created specially to help cats and dogs with a fear of fireworks, and can be downloaded for use at home. Click the link to find out more.
How can I comfort my cat or dog during fireworks?
Alongside preparing in the run-up to bonfire night, there are several things you can do to help calm and comfort your cat or dog when fireworks start going off.
- Feed your pets before the fireworks start
- Walk your dog during the day or in the early evening
- Keep cats indoors at night
- Shut your doors and windows
- Close the curtains, and turn on the TV or put on music
- Act natural
Step five: Feed and walk pets before fireworks start
If your cat or dog’s feeding time coincides with when the fireworks go off, feed them earlier. Once the fireworks start your pet could become too stressed to eat.
Try to take dogs for a walk during the day or earlier in the evening before fireworks normally begin. If your cat goes out during the day, consider closing the cat flap earlier than usual so they are not outside when it starts getting dark and fireworks are let off. If they stay out for long periods of time or are hard to tempt inside, you can keep cats indoors all day.
However, with fewer organised displays this year, there's no way to predict the frequency of fireworks throughout the season. Although keeping your cat indoors for a long period of time may not be a viable option, you could try to alter their feeding times to encourage them to come earlier in the afternoon, so you can then keep then indoors overnight.
Step six: Secure the house
Once your pet is inside the house, double check you’ve locked your windows, doors and cat/dog flaps. Cats and dogs may try to run away if they’re scared of the noise and light of the fireworks. If they end up outside, they could be in an even scarier or more stressful situation, and are more likely to run away and get lost.
Step seven: Create a distraction from the fireworks with the TV or music
Close the curtains, particularly in the room in which you’ve built your pet den, to block out the noise and light from the fireworks. Put on some music or turn your television up a little louder than normal to help muffle the sounds. Having some of your pet’s favourite toys lying around will help them focus on another activity rather than the firework noise.
Step eight: Act natural
In the same way that children look to their parents and take cues from them, your pet will too. If you don’t seem bothered by the noise, then your cat or dog is more likely to feel relaxed too. Keep a supply of food or treats your cat or dog loves so you can reward good and calm behaviour.
Can I use a calming aid to keep my cat or dog calm during fireworks?
Calming products are ideal for supporting cats and dogs during stressful situations, such as fireworks and bonfire night. Pheromone calming products are particularly useful as they calm pets without sedating them, and are species-specific. For example, a cat pheromone product will only affect cats, but wouldn’t affect other pets or people in the home. Certain pheromones trigger an instinctive calming response, so using these pheromones in calming products is an easy and effective way to help pets feel calm and reassured during stressful situations.
At Beaphar, we have a range of pheromone calming products availableYou can easily find a suitable calming solution for your cat or dog.
As mentioned above, our Beaphar CatComfort® and CaniComfort® Calming Diffusers are ideal for plugging in the same room as your pet den. They release pheromones into the room for up to 30 days, helping your cat or dog feel comfortable and safe.
Alongside the calming diffuser, our Beaphar CatComfort® and Beaphar CaniComfort® Calming Spot-Ons create a calming effect that travels with your pet, helping reassure them wherever they go. The calming spot-ons begin working around 15 minutes after application and are effective for up to 1 week, so perfect for firework season when fireworks could be set off over several days.
Check out the Beaphar Comfort Diffusers
- Beaphar CaniComfort® Calming Diffuser & Plug for DogsFor nervous or stressed dogs, Beaphar CaniComfort® Calming Diffuser is a long-lasting plug-in, for use in the home that offers continuous calming for dogs, using pheromone technology which is scientifically recognised for its calming effects. Ideal for reducing problem behaviour and providing reassurance in stressful situations, such as separation anxiety, family gatherings, fireworks and more.
- Beaphar RabbitComfort® Calming Diffuser & Plug for RabbitsFor nervous or stressed rabbits, Beaphar RabbitComfort® Calming Diffuser is a long-lasting plug-in that offers continuous calming for rabbits, using pheromone technology which is scientifically recognised for its calming effects. Ideal for reducing problem behaviour and providing reassurance in stressful situations, such as separation anxiety, family gatherings, fireworks and more.