I write about pet fireworks fears every year at this time. But each of these 10 tips for your scared dog or cat can make a positive difference in your best friend’s life. It HURTS to be frightened, and makes us feel bad when pets are upset.
Fireworks from July 4th celebration may be festive to you, but can turn your pets into nervous wrecks. More cats and dogs—and even livestock like horses—become lost on this day than any other when pets panic, go through windows, break tethers and leap fences.
Even safely contained pets shiver, moan, and feel worse with each noisy boom. You may not see quivering scaredy-cats but the stress from noise phobia increases risk of hit-or-miss litter box behavior.
It can take weeks or even months for desensitization and counter-conditioning techniques to teach fearful pets that noises won’t hurt them. With July 4th right around the corner, refer to these 10 tips for more immediate help.
10 Tips For Pet Fireworks Fears
- Scared animals calm themselves down by squeezing into tight spots and hiding their eyes. For instance, your dog wriggles between the sofa and wall, while kitty hides her face in your armpit. Offer your pets safe hiding place and let them be.
- Avoid sympathetic baby-talk that rewards the fear. When you get upset or coddle your cat and dog during fireworks, you tell them they have good reason to be scared. Instead, be matter of fact. When it “booms” you can acknowledge the noise, “That was loud. But it doesn’t bother me, see? It shouldn’t bother you.”
- Anti-anxiety training tools can help. Anxiety Wrap and Thundershirt are types of dog “vests” the pet wears that apply pressure to his body, and seem to calm fear in pets. They have Thundershirt for cats, too.
- Cover up the sound with white noise. Use a white noise machine or a radio tuned to static works well.
- Play soothing music. Harp music has a unique sedative effect on pets, because the rhythms and sounds mimic brain waves and help calm the fear. Harp music may prompt you to nap, too. I’m a fan of PetPause.
- Pheromone products also relieve fear and anxiety in pets. Comfort Zone with DAP (dog appeasing pheromone) works well for noise-phobic dogs—it’s produced by mom-dogs when they nurse pups and sooths dogs of any age. The product for cats, Feliway, relieves the cat’s anxiety about her territory because it’s similar to the cheek-pheromone that relieves kitty stress. Both DAP and Feliway come as sprays or plug-in diffusers and the dog product also comes as a collar. The spray can be used every one to two hours on bedding or a bandana the pet wears. You can also get the Sentry Calming Collars for both dogs and cats that also use the mother’s pheromone.
- Just as human babies may be soothed by a car ride, a road trip may soothe pets that enjoy the car and take their mind off the noise. Just be sure your cat or dog LIKES car rides, and is safely secured in a carrier or restraint in the back seat during the ride.
- The brain can’t think when in a state of panic. But the opposite holds true as well—when thinking, the brain won’t go nutso and turn your pet into a shrieking escape artist. So just before the fireworks start, drill your dog—or your cat—on favorite commands and tricks with lots of special yummy rewards or games. Continue the games throughout and throw a happy-dance party for him staying calm.
- Whatever you do, be sure that your precious pet stays safe. Bring outdoor pets inside the garage or the house during the July 4th Provide a crate or confinement in a pet-proofed room.
- Move horses into secure fenced areas—or better—barns that will safely contain a frantic animal without chance of injury. And just in case, be sure all your precious pets are microchipped or have other permanent and reliable identification for recovery if they do the desperado dash when the rocket’s red glare fill the sky.
Now it’s your turn. Do you have a dog or cat that hates fireworks? How do you manage the angst? Any stories you can share about a July 4th pet fiasco? Please share!
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