Most of us love this time of year: fallen leaves to tramp through, fireworks to ooh and ah at, and that distinctive nip in the air that means hot chocolate, roasted chestnuts, jacket potatoes and comfort food are perfectly legitimate snacks/meals every day. But as exciting as this time of year is for us humans, for our four-legged friends it can be hellish. Our cats spent much of Saturday and Sunday evening hidden in corners and under duvets, refusing to come out until the whee, whizz and pop of fireworks had stopped.
Dogs, cats, rabbits, and other animals have no idea what these loud noises and bangs are all about. To them it sounds like danger and is very, very scary. There are also significant hazards out there, such as wandering into the wrong place at the wrong time, bolting due to the noise, finding an unexploded firework, and people who may wish to harm them. It sounds horrendous, but there is plenty you can do to help your pets, and to keep them safe.
To help your pets through this very stressful time of year, follow these tips:
1. Get your pet inside early, preferably before 4pm, and keep them in for all the evenings from 5th November and over the weekend. Lock or block cat flaps. Bring any outdoor pets such as rabbits and guinea pigs inside, and cover any aviaries with thick blankets or duvets to dull the noise.
2. Remember to exercise your dog earlier in the day so that they don't need to go out later. Provide a litter tray for cats who are not used to staying indoors in the evening.
3. Close all doors and windows to dull the sound, and keep the curtains closed, investing in winter-weight ones if you can afford to. Have the radio or TV on to help detract from the noise outside.
4. To prevent bolting, secure your pet behind a closed door before opening the front door if someone calls round. The flight instinct will be strong, so keep your pet safely in another room.
5. Keep all pets well away from fireworks, at all times. And make sure you have pet insurance, just in case anything terrible should happen.
6. Create a quiet sanctuary where your pet can have familiar smells, objects and food available to her. Maybe leave one of your worn t-shirts with our pet to help calm her if you cannot be available yourself. Provide extra bedding for smaller caged animals to burrow into, and hide some treats in it to keep them occupied. Make sure dogs' water bowls are topped up as anxiety will make them pant more and they will get thirsty.
7. Play with your pet and provide treats to distract and keep them calmer. We have some new catnip toys ready to entertain our cats. A dog would be happy with a delicious new bone to gnaw on.
8. Follow your pet's lead, and let them go where they feel safe and comfortable. Reassure your pet and comfort them, but remain confident and relaxed yourself. Keep calm so that your dog sees the 'pack leader' isn't bothered by these strange noises and will start to calm down himself.
9. Do not tell your pet off for being fearful or try to 'acclimatise' them to the sounds. If you go out during this time, do not be angry with your pet if they have acted destructively or toileted in your absence. If at all possible, remain with them at home.
10. Keep your dog on the lead the day after any fireworks, and make sure they do not nose at any firework packaging or detritus just in case. And check your garden the next morning before you let any pets out.
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