Fireworks can be a wonder to behold ... for humans. Pets, however, may not be so enamored with the booms, crashes and bumps in the night.
Dogs, cats, even small rodents often become creatures of habit. They like knowing they are secure and what's to come next. Surprises and extraordinary events can put pets on edge.
Loud noises often spook pets. Everything from noisy trucks to thunderstorms to low-flying airplanes may scare a pet, possibly leading to unpredictable behavior. Summer can induce anxiety in pets, especially when people celebrate with fireworks and boisterous parties.
Many cats and dogs will try to hide when they hear fireworks or other loud noises. Pet parents can play off of this behavior and create safe sanctuaries to which their pets can retreat to ride out the "rockets' red glare and bombs bursting in air." The following are a few tips to reduce pet anxiety when night falls and fireworks start going off.
* Set up a comforting den. If your dog or cat sleeps in a crate, cage or a special nook in the house, use this area to establish a safe haven. Put comfortable pillows or mats on the floor and envelop the cage or spot with blankets. These items will help mask the sights and sounds of outdoors. Put in familiar toys or even one of your shirts to establish familiar and comforting scents.
* Keep the windows closed and the drapes drawn. Minimize what cats and dogs can see or hear. If they don't know what is occurring outside, they likely won't be frightened. However, many pets have very good hearing, so some of the louder fireworks might still be audible.
* Put on soothing music. Throw on a show or songs that have steady, repetitive beats. This, too, will help mask the unpredictable sounds of fireworks.
* Walk the pet in early evening. Make sure you walk your dog prior to sunset to reduce the liklihood of getting caught outdoors with fireworks being set off. If pets are allowed to roam in the yard, bring them inside before the sun sets.
* Don't punish the pet. Stressed pets may soil indoors, cower, fail to respond to commands, or engage in destructive behavior. It is important not to admonish the pet simply because he or she is scared. Doing so may only make the situation worse.
* Don't comfort the pet, either. It may be tempting to sit and cuddle a dog or cat and reassure him that everything will be alright. This fawning over the pet may only help to reinforce negative behavior and the pet's inability to overcome the fears himself.
* Talk to the vet. If fears are paralyzing your pet, talk to the veterinarian to see if behavior therapy or short-term medication use may help assuage fears. Some vets prescribe a mild tranquilizer to help pets get through specific fireworks displays.
Because fear can cause skittishness, many pets end up running away from home during summer fireworks displays. It is imperative to keep identification on your pets at all times so they can be returned promptly if found.