Petrified pets: Advice from the RSPCA on how to help make Bonfire Night bearable for Pets

Petrified pets this bonfire night - dog under a fleece blanket
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Animal experts at the RSPCA have shared their top tips for pet owners to settle their animals as fireworks season goes off with a bang this week – with the charity braced for an explosion of backyard displays causing added grief for our furry friends.

As Bonfire Night looms, more than three quarters of people (76%) want the UK Government to limit when fireworks can be set off to only one week around the Bonfire Night celebrations, according to a groundbreaking new poll from the RSPCA.

This one-week limit is something the RSPCA promotes for other traditional events associated with fireworks too – such as Diwali, Chinese New Year and New Year’s Eve/Day.

The RSPCA hopes the tips below will help owners keep their animals safe – at a time when many feel the fireworks season seems to last longer than ever each year. The prolonged period of explosive activity undoubtedly causes unpredictable periods of distress for many animals.

Tips for the run-up to fireworks displays

🎆 Update your pets’ collars and ID tags checking the information is correct, in case they manage to escape and become lost during fireworks.

🎆 Microchiped pets – ensure details are up-to-date, so they can be easily reunited with you if they go missing.

🎆 Seek expert help – If your pet has a severe fireworks fear then speak to your vet now to come up with a plan or to discuss whether there are any treatment options to help them. If necessary, your vet can refer you to a professional clinical animal behaviourist.

🎆 Introduce changes to your pet’s routine slowly – We recommend walking dogs during daylight during fireworks season so if this is different to your normal routine, begin to alter the time of your pet’s walk to get them gradually used to it. For equine owners, it’s also sensible to keep your horse in a familiar environment, following their normal routine with their usual companions. If you’re planning to bring your horse or livestock into a stable or barn overnight during fireworks, start to introduce the change of routine now to get them used to being in.

🎆 Provide your dog or cat with a safe haven – Create a doggy den in a quiet area of the house and make it a special safe place by placing tasty treats and favourite toys inside. Make sure your cats always have access to plenty of places around the house to hide.

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🎆 Prepare a designated safe room for small animals like rabbits and guinea pigs, ensuring that they have plenty of bedding to hide in.

🎆 If your horse is particularly anxious, consult a veterinarian about using a calming supplement or sedation during firework displays.

🎆 Consider desensitising your pets to the sound of fireworks by gradually introducing recordings at low volume and gradually increasing it over time. We recommend Sounds Scary which comes with guidance on how to use it. You can also muffle the sound of fireworks for dogs and other pets by using calming music like Classic FM’s ‘Pet Classics’ programme, in partnership with the RSPCA, on Saturday 4 and Sunday 5 November – but you can start to introduce this now. This is a long-term approach so it may be worth starting now ahead of next year.

🎆 Check for local firework displays advertised or planned in your area, and plan your walks or trips outside accordingly to avoid areas with loud noises.

🎆 Speak to neighbours – If you want to plan for dates of local displays then check local press and websites and speak to your neighbours and local councils/schools etc to find out dates ahead of time so you can plan now to help your pet. Ask organisers to site fireworks well away from your horse and aimed in the opposite direction. Instead of having your own fireworks display, attend a public display instead, but, if you are having a backyard display, be neighbourly and notify your neighbours well in advance, especially those with pets, horses and livestock or those who may be vulnerable to loud noises.

Fireworks Frighten Animals graphic featuring horse, rabbit, cat and dog

During fireworks displays

🎆Bringing pets inside –  If you’re planning to bring them indoors to better protect them then start to make this change ahead of fireworks night to get them used to the new sights, smells and sounds inside.

🎆 Soundproof your house – Simple steps like closing windows and curtains can help your house seem safer to your pet and reduce the sound and visual stimulation from the fireworks.

🎆 Pop the radio on – tune into Classic FM’s ‘Pet Classics’ programme, in partnership with the RSPCA, on Saturday 4 and Sunday 5 November – so your pet can enjoy soothing and comforting classical music, handpicked by Classic FM to help calm and settle any anxious pet.

🎆 Stay at home with your pets if possible during firework displays to provide comfort and reassurance.

🎆 Pheromone diffusers – Speak to your vet about using a calming collar or diffuser which disperses calming pheromones which may help your dog or cat feel more secure.

🎆 Provide extra bedding – Rabbits, guinea pigs and other small animals who live outside should have extra bedding to burrow into or you can cover their housing with a blanket for extra sound-proofing. Begin to introduce this now.

🎆 Create a distraction for your pets by engaging them in interactive play or giving them puzzle toys that dispense treats.

🎆 Avoid bringing your pets to fireworks displays, as the loud noises and crowds can be overwhelming and stressful for them.

🎆 Keep horses or livestock secure in a well-fenced area during fireworks events

🎆 Give your pets plenty of exercise during the day to tire them out, as this can help reduce anxiety and stress in the evening.

🎆 Use positive reinforcement techniques to help your pets associate firework noises with something enjoyable. Offer treats, playtime, or cuddles during quieter moments so they can form positive associations with the sounds of fireworks.

Petrified pets this bonfire night - dog under a fleece blanket

After fireworks season

🎆 If your animals have been impacted by fireworks, fill out the RSPCA’s short survey to share your experiences and help raise awareness about the impact of fireworks on animals. Last year we had over 1,000 responses to our survey which demonstrated that 64% of respondents’ animals struggled due to noise from private at-home backyard displays, which helps to strengthen our campaign and our lobby for change.

🎆 If you would like to see changes to legislation to improve fireworks sessions for animals take RSPCA’s action and email your Member of Parliament.

The animal charity has again launched its #BangOutOfOrder campaign, which aims to end the fear and distress caused by fireworks for innocent animals. By raising awareness and advocating for responsible behaviour, the campaign seeks to protect animals from harm and encourages UK Governments to review current legislation.

Carrie added: “However, recent polling revealed that more than 3 in 4 (76%) UK adults think the UK government should limit days on which fireworks can be let off for Bonfire Night.*

“Sadly we are inundated with calls each year about welfare concerns for animals connected to fireworks and we hear first hand how frustrated the public are that the Bonfire Night period seems to last longer than ever before.”

Last year, 18,899 people joined the #BangOutOfOrder campaign, helping us make more people than ever before aware of the devastating impact of fireworks on animals.

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Author: Suzanne Ashton Founder, Everything Horse Ba Hons Marketing Management email: contact@everythinghorseuk.co.uk

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