Thursday, June 24, 2010
By Julia Williams
Many Americans love to celebrate Independence Day with backyard barbecues, picnics in the park and noisy fireworks that go POP POP BOOM BANG for hours on end. While these festivities may be great fun for people, they’re not so pleasant for our pets. I don’t have anything against celebrating the 4th of July holiday, really I don’t. But I shudder every time I see those familiar roadside fireworks stands materialize, because I know how scared my poor cats are going to be in the coming days.
Dogs and cats have acute hearing, and those noisy fireworks can send them scurrying for cover. Add the frightening flashes of light, and it’s easy to see why Independence Day can be stressful for pets. I remember how my childhood dog, Flavia, would bark wildly at our fireworks. She’d become so agitated we had to shut her indoors while we set them off. In retrospect, I think she was just trying to protect us from these strange and dangerous things.
Unless you live in a state that bans personal fireworks, you probably hear those familiar noises not only on July 4th, but for several days before and after. Each city sets their own laws for how many days neighborhood fireworks are allowed, but in general, it’s about a week. During this time, I rarely see my cats. They spend the week hiding under the bed, and sometimes don’t even emerge for their evening meal.
In the past, I’ve just let them “ride it out,” knowing things would be back to normal for them in a few days. This year I decided to research ways to lessen their Independence Day stress. Here are some tips for helping pets get through the 4th of July holiday without shattered nerves.
Keep your pets indoors on July 4th. Since firecrackers will be going off all day long, it’s best if pets (especially cats) stay indoors for the entire day.
Keep your windows and doors closed to prevent your pet from running away if they become frightened by the fireworks. Be sure they are wearing identification tags in case they do escape.
Give your pet something to do, such as toys that will keep them occupied for long periods of time.
Put on some soothing music, or turn on the television. This may help to mask the fireworks noise, as well as lessen your pet’s stress.
Create a temporary “safe haven” for your pet in the closet. Set down their pet bed or favorite blanket, some toys, water and perhaps even food. Being in the closet will help them feel safe because it’s enclosed, and the closet blocks out some of the noise of the fireworks.
If you’re having a party on the 4th, keep your pet behind closed doors, and be sure to put a sign on the door so that no one accidentally opens it. Cats especially, will feel more secure locked away from all of the hustle and bustle. Even if you have an outgoing dog who loves people, they could still get scared from the fireworks and bolt off, or help themselves to food and drinks that might make them ill.
Don’t take your dog to a fireworks display. No matter how calm they normally are, the noises and crowd activity on this day are just too unpredictable.
Distract your pet with some new treats, chews or toys. They may be so focused on these that they hardly notice all that cracking and booming going on around them. Admittedly, this tip is more for dog owners – I highly doubt new toys or treats will have any effect on my skittish kitties.
Some people give their pet a mild tranquilizer to help them get through the 4th of July holiday. For pets that become extremely distressed by loud noises, this could be a viable option. Please consult your pet’s vet if you are considering it.
Store your fireworks safely out of reach. Like children, pets are naturally curious about things they see lying around. To them, anything has the potential to be a fun new toy they can bat around or chew on. But fireworks contain substances that are harmful for pets and could even kill them, so be sure they’re kept where dogs, cats and kids can’t get to them.
Clean up the firework debris from your yard too, so your pet won't try to play with it or gnaw on it.
Responsible pet ownership means keeping our pets safe, healthy and happy, to the best of our ability. I hope these tips help your pets come through the noisy 4th of July holiday unscathed. I’m also hoping that this year, I see more of my cats than fleeting glimpses of three trembling forms underneath my bed.
Read more articles by Julia Williams