Thursday, July 4, 2013
On Independence Day, most people don’t bat an eye when they hear the pop-pop-pop sound of firecrackers going off all day long, or the thunderous boom of fireworks at night. Not me. As a “parent” of three cats who are terrified of those loud noises, I cringe when I see the garishly decorated fireworks stands popping up on every corner.
I dread July 4th and especially nightfall, because I live right across the street from where my town sets off their fireworks display. Those loud booms are unsettling for me; I can only imagine how scary they are for my pets, who have no idea what those noises mean. Are we being invaded? Is the world ending? Where can I hide? At that first boom, my skittish kitties make a beeline for UTB (under the bed) and I usually don’t see them until morning.
It’s made me something of a curmudgeon, hating the Fourth of July when I should be joyously and noisily celebrating freedom and independence like everyone else. Yet, more pets go missing on July 4th than any other day of the year, says the popular adoption site, Petfinder. Emergency pet hospitals also see an upswing of visits.
So while it’s nice to enjoy the backyard barbecues, picnics in the park and fireworks that have become an American tradition on the Fourth, responsible pet owners also need to take precautions to keep their four-legged family members safe (and as stress-free as possible).
Don't take Fido to the fireworks display. This noisy, crowded scene can create anxiety and aggression in even the calmest of canines.
If you plan to set off personal fireworks, be sure to keep your dog in a safe location away from the display. Too many dogs have already been burned and otherwise injured by fireworks; it’s just not worth the risk.
Keep pets indoors and keep windows and doors closed. If your cat is allowed to roam outdoors or your dog spends time in a fenced yard or kennel, on this day it is infinitely safer for them to be indoors. Also be sure they are wearing identification tags in case they do escape.
Puppy Party! A reader sent me this suggestion, which I think is great. Every time there is a loud noise, such as firecrackers or fireworks, loudly and cheerfully announce “Puppy Party!” Run to the cupboard to get their CANIDAE treats. Be excited, be happy, jump up and down, say Hooray!! It’s a party, after all. This helps your dog associate a scary sound with a reward, making a positive connection. I think this idea is worth trying with cats too, but I’m not sure it would be as successful.
Store fireworks out of reach. 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. And be sure to clean up the firework debris from your yard immediately after your display.
If you’re having a backyard barbecue, keep your pets away from the people food and make sure your guests know they’re not supposed to slip Fido or Fluffy some of what’s on their plate. (I know, I know…those begging eyes are so hard to resist!). While a taste or two might not hurt them, some of the foods we humans enjoy could cause digestive upsets for our pets, and some people food is actually toxic. Why risk it? It’s best to make all people food off limits and just give your pet their regular food.
For pets that are frightened by fireworks, try playing classical music or turning the TV on to mask the noise. Some people have had success with Thundershirts, pheromone diffusers, and natural calming essences. For the truly terrified, it’s not a bad idea to enclose them in a room with a few of their favorite toys, a soft blanket and/or their comfy pet bed.
The last place you want to be on the Fourth of July is at the emergency vet clinic. That would be a major buzzkill, for sure. However, with just a few precautions, you can enjoy your Fourth of July holiday while keeping your furry friend(s) safe and sound. What are your plans for the day?
Read more articles by Julia Williams