Fireworks and Cats: How to Make Them Feel Safe
By: Candace S.
Fireworks and Cats: How to make them feel safe.
Dog owners know that the firework season can be distressing for their animals and have a plan in place to help soothe during the time. Cats are also affected by fireworks, however differently than dogs. Cats are experts in hiding not just their pain, but fear as well. Shelters have before stated how firework-focused holidays are when the highest volume of stray cats are found and brought in due to escaping home. First, it is important to know what signs to look for in your cat’s behaviour during fireworks such as hiding, dilated pupils, hissing and growling, and litter aversion accidents.
You may find that your kitty may hide for the entirety of the fireworks. Cats have extremely sensitive hearing which does not make the loud booming noises any easier to live through. Although this behaviour could lead to others, it is nonaggressive as a standalone. Other behaviours like dilated pupils could be partnered with ears pinned back, and their tail hair becomes fuzzy show their distress more and could lead to aggression. Other signs to watch for are vocalizing their fear in the form of hissing or yowling, and it is best to be close but not extremely close as you do not want them to feel threatened.
Luckily, there are a multitude of ways to help keep your kitty feeling safe during the stressful time of fireworks going off.
Keep them inside
This is crucial for the nights of fireworks as way to prevent your kitty from escaping and potentially having the risk of being hurt, hurting another, or becoming a stray. If living in a home, be mindful to block off any door flaps or windows that could easily let a kitty slip through. If living in an apartment, watch out for windows and balcony access. It is also wise to avoid leaving home, but if you must, ensure everything is secure.
Have a safe space at home
Cats need a specific place where they can feel comfortable and not threatened. You might notice that your kitty already has a sanctuary area which they frequent to even when they are not distressed, such as a closest, or a drawer, for example. To make their hiding spot even more comfortable and anxiety-soothing, laying out a fuzzy blanket that smells of you down will help. This will work to make your pet comfortable from the scent of you lingering, and their survival instincts will ease knowing that they are safe and unlikely to be harmed.
Distract your kitty
This tip sounds simple. If your kitty does not have a desire to be in a safe space, hidden away, then having the television volume up higher than normal and the curtains drawn will help with two factors: their fear, and desensitization. The cat is out of their hiding, so they are not as afraid as they could be to the loud booms of fireworks. The chatter from the television and drawn curtains keeps them from becoming upset and allows you to play with them, so they can associate the anxiety-fueled time as more enjoyable. The options with this tip are endless; you could give your kitty catnip if they react well to it, build a blanket fort with lots of new or old favourite toys to name a few.
Cats are notorious for sensing energy. Try your best to remain as calm as possible, don’t do anything out of your regular behaviour that may lead to your kitty becoming stressed. If they do have a negative reaction to the fireworks or something in the environment during the course of the night, don’t punish or scold them. These reactions are completely normal due to their survival instincts and scolding them will only increase their stress. It is also wise that to let your kitty come to you if they are afraid and need physical affection for comfort to prevent a fearful kitty being held against their will and possibly biting or scratching you.
Schedule for a cat sitter
If you happen to be away during the fireworks, schedule a cat sitter such that will visit the kitty at appropriate times and monitor for behaviour. This is an effective way to help your pet not feel afraid and more secure if they are familiar with their sitter.
Prescription medications, relaxation techniques, and alternative therapy
If these tips are unsuccessful and your kitty continues to have a severely negative reaction to the flashes and sounds of fireworks, consult with your veterinarian. The pet could need a prescription of anti-anxiety medication or sedative that would help them in their daily life.
Compression jackets or blankets are also another option. The weight of the fabric will help the kitty feel secure, as if they are a swaddled infant. A popular product for this is the Thundershirt for cats which comes in the shape of a vest.
Another increasingly popular option is CBD Oil. CBD, fully known as cannabidiol, comes from cannabis plants and is different from the major active compound in the plants, tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. CBD is non-psychoactive, meaning that your kitty will not get “high” from the use of the product. Holistic veterinarians are increasingly recommending this as a method to improve life quality of pets who suffer from various ailments such as anxiety, pain, inflammation and so on. If you are considering this route, please consult with your veterinarian and find regulated retail options.
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