Explosions, bangs, whistles and whizzes — is it any wonder that Bonfire Night can be an ordeal for our pets? Whilst we humans may understand that fireworks pose no threat, a night full of unpredictable loud noises can still trigger primal responses of terror in our furry friends. Frightened dogs and cats might shake, pant, drool, run around in a state of manic excitement, or even destroy furniture. But there are plenty of ways you can calm your panic-prone animals. From the biggest hound to the smallest hamster, we’ve put together this guide on how to help every pet stay calm and contented this Bonfire Night…
Use sound therapy
With a bit of planning, you can train your pet to get used to the sound of firework noises using desensitisation CDs. These feature recordings of fireworks and other loud or unexpected noises, and can be used to train animals so they gradually get used to the sound of fireworks. These sound therapy courses from iCalmPet are designed specifically to treat firework phobias. Start by playing them in your house a low volume, and gradually increase the volume over the course of a few days. Before long, your pet should learn that there’s nothing to fear.
Find natural ways of soothing
You might also want to consider calming herbal solutions. A few drops of a soothing concoction added to your pet’s water supply can help a panicky pet relax — try a chamomile or valerian root blend. Make sure you buy a remedy that is animal-friendly and to follow the instructions carefully. You can find a handy guide to which herbal remedies are suitable for anxious pets at Dogs Naturally Magazine.
You could try using pet sling. This type of wrap places gentle, continual pressure on your pet’s chest — a bit like a long hug. You can even make one yourself using this guide from BarkPost.
Provide a place to hide out
Animals will instinctively take shelter during a period of danger, so their natural reaction to fireworks will often include trying to find a safe spot in the house to ride out the action. Dogs and cats instinctually favour very small spaces when they feel unsafe, so it’s quite common to find pets trying to squeeze into a tiny space on Bonfire Night. There’s a risk that your pet might get stuck doing this, so help them out by creating a safe and cosy den.
A crate or pet carrier — like these carriers from Millbry Hill — will provide a snug hiding spot, especially if you make the space more inviting using cushions and blankets. A blanket draped over the top will provide extra insulation from the noise.
Advice for small pets
If you have smaller pets, like rabbits, hamsters or guinea pigs, then you can help keep them calm by adapting their containers. Bring any outdoor hutches into an indoor space where the fireworks will be a little less loud — a garage is ideal. Make sure they have plenty of straw or bedding, to give them plenty of places to burrow and hide. It may make them feel a little safer if you cover their containers with a blanket or sheet to muffle the noise.
Watch out for escapees
Panicky pets are more prone to escape attempts, so secure all doors and gates, and make sure that any cat or dog flaps are locked. You’ll want to make sure all pets are collared and microchipped, just in case they do manage to make a break for it. For smaller animals, you’ll want to make sure that all hutches are secure, with no possibility of an escape, especially if you plan on moving them overnight.
If all else fails, and your pet is so distressed there’s a risk they might hurt themselves, then book an appointment with your vet. They’ll be able to offer advice, and in extreme cases they may even be able to prescribe a mild sedative to help your pet stay safe.