We all love a celebration, but our animal buddies might not quite understand what’s going on with the fireworks so Justine Riseley, volunteer with the Cayman Islands Humane Society, has passed on some tips for how to look after our dogs and cats over New Year’s Eve and beyond.
Always keep dogs and cats inside when fireworks are being let off.
Make sure your dog is walked earlier in the day before the fireworks start.
Close all windows and doors, and block off catflaps to stop pets escaping and to keep noise to a minimum. Draw the curtains, and if the animals are used to the sounds of TV or radio, switch them on (but not too loudly) in order to block out some of the noise of the fireworks.
Ensure dogs are wearing some form of easily readable identification – even in the house. They should have at least a collar and tag.
Think about fitting pets with a microchip, so that if they do run away they have a better chance of being quickly reunited with you.
Prepare a “den” for your pet where it can feel safe and comfortable – perhaps under a bed with some of your old clothes, in the quietest room in the house. It may like to hide there when the fireworks start.
You can do this a few days in advance and get the dog or cat used to the special area including playing with toys or favourite objects. You can make sure you have something to do in this area, such as read, to help with the atmosphere.
Ignore the firework noises yourself. Play with a toy to see if your pet wants to join in, but don’t force them to play.
If you know a dog that isn’t scared by noises and which gets on well with your dog, then keeping the two together during the evenings may help your dog to realise that there’s no need to be afraid.
Let your pet pace around, whine, miaow and hide in a corner if it wants to. Do not try to coax it out – it’s just trying to find safety, and should not be disturbed. Trying to entice them out may add to the stress.
Try not to cuddle and comfort distressed pets as they will think you are worried too, and this may make the problem worse. Instead stay relaxed, act normally and praise calm behaviour.
Avoid leaving your pet alone during such potentially upsetting events. If you do have to leave the house, don’t get angry with your pet if you find it has been destructive after being left on its own. Shouting at a frightened pet will only make it more stressed.
Don’t tie your dog up outside while fireworks are being let off. Do not tie it outside a shop while you pop inside; do not leave it in the garden and certainly not in your car.
Never take your dog to a fireworks display. Even if it doesn’t bark or whimper at the noise, it doesn’t mean it is happy. Excessive panting and yawning can sometimes indicate that your dog is stressed.
The RCPSA adds a couple of bits of advice, too:
If your pets live outside, partly cover cages, pens and aviaries with blankets so that one area is well sound-proofed. Make sure that your pet is still able to look out.
Provide lots of extra bedding so your pet has something to burrow in.