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Independence Day is tomorrow, and for most Americans, this means nighttime fireworks — and cowering pets.
So much noise! It’s enough to drive a pet mad. And sometimes it does.
Unlike us, dogs, cats and other pets have no way of knowing that the deafeningly loud bangs and madly flickering lights of fireworks shows are supposed to be happening or why. And so they either act out or recoil in fear.
Why Pets and Fireworks Aren’t Friends
When fireworks start popping, pets have different ways of reacting. Some soil the house; others claw up furniture or the carpet. They may pace, whine or even vomit. All of this is similar to symptoms of an aversion to thunderstorms.
It doesn’t help that our pets’ sense of hearing is so much more finely tuned than ours. In extreme cases, noise-phobic dogs might hurl themselves through a screen door or a glass window in an attempt to escape the infernal sound of booming firecrackers.
Is there a way to calm pet anxiety from fireworks? Sure. But it takes work — and it helps if you plan ahead.
8 Best Ways to Calm Pet Anxiety Over Fireworks
1. Let Them Hide
Your pets will try to hide — so let them. Give them a safe, cozy spot to get away from all the ruckus, where they can feel safe.
Behind the couch is a great spot. Put down a blanket and pad the area with pillows to help drown out the noise.
In my old apartment, my cat’s favorite fireworks hiding spot used to be in the bathroom right behind the toilet. There were no windows, which worked great for her. Sure, it was weird having those little cat eyes staring up at you as you did your business (and it was clearly no picnic for her either), but if it made her feel slightly more comfortable, then so be it.
Other pets prefer closets, the space under beds, even bathtubs. In our new apartment, my cat now likes the area under the couch. It’s a hiding spot right in the center of the room, just below where I sit.
2. Walk This Way
Do you have a dog who is noise-averse?
When the afternoon of July 4th arrives, take your pooch on an extra-long walk before sunset. Two hours in the park might do the trick.
The idea is to let your dog run off so much energy that the noise bothers them less once the fireworks begin. They’ll be too exhausted to care as much.
3. Seal the Hatch
Close all windows and doors. This not only helps reduce the noise, but it is also safer for your pets.
Doggy doors and cat flaps should be disabled as well.
As for rabbits, bring them inside if possible. At the very least, cover your outdoor rabbit hutch with a blanket. Also, add a few blankets or extra bedding inside for comfort.
4. Curtain Call
Draw the curtains inside to help dull the noise.
5. White Noise
Run an air conditioner or a fan, or put on some soothing background music — classical music seems to work great.
For the past few years, we’ve been watching a product called the ThunderShirt. When worn on your pet like a shirt, it applies gentle, constant pressure to help calm them.
And you don’t have to wait for a fireworks show — or a thunderstorm — to come along. You can use the ThunderShirt any time your dog is anxious.
Here are some more helpful hints for fireworks season:
7. Rescue Remedy
This liquid “natural stress reliever” is a product many people with pets swear by. They say it calms even rabbits.
At around $14–$15 per bottle, it may be worth a shot. Here’s the product page on Amazon.com — consult your veterinarian first.
8. Mutt Muffs
I’ve heard anecdotal accounts of people rigging up earplugs to work with dog ears. I do not recommend this. The risk of something getting stuck in the ears is far too great.
Instead, check out Mutt Muffs, ear muffs made for dogs. I have my doubts about these comical-looking things, but others swear by them.
Why You Shouldn’t Baby Your Pet Too Much
Giving your pet a few treats during the fireworks show is fine. But don’t overdo it.
Why? Because this sends the message that you think something’s terribly wrong too. And when your pet senses that you think something’s really wrong, this just reinforces the anxiety.
So how should you act? Calm — like all that noise outside is no biggie.
You should not, however, ignore your pet. And never punish. Either of those would be insensitive.
Instead, acknowledge that, yes, something is amiss. Stroke your dog or cat and offer comforting words. Give a few treats and try to engage your pet in playtime.
But don’t spend all night holding and comforting them in your lap. And don’t act like something terrible is happening outside. Keep calm and carry on.
Prevention (The Bigger Picture)
In the future, you may want to consider buying an album of socialization sounds that includes fireworks noise. Your pet will gradually get used to hearing these sounds, so when the next big holiday comes around, a fireworks show won’t be as big a deal.
Anti-anxiety pet medications, as prescribed by your vet, may help too — but they take several weeks to kick in.
And remember, no 2 dogs are alike, and not all phobic pets respond to the methods mentioned here. You can’t force your dog, cat or rabbit to stop being afraid of fireworks, gunshots, thunder or other blaring noises.
So please be responsible, caring and patient. Work with your pet — and your veterinarian, trainer or behaviorist if necessary — to find the best way to calm your pet’s anxiety over fireworks.