The American Humane Association reports that July 5 is the busiest day at animal shelters, caring for all the pets who simply ran in fright during fireworks the night before. Being near fireworks can be uncomfortable for us humans, but even at a distance they take their toll on our pets’ highly sensitive ears and can leave them highly stressed, confused and irritable, and even a pet who has shown no interest in the outdoors might just take off into the night to try to get as far away from that horrible noise as possible.
My community hosts its 4th of July celebration on July 3, so that adds an extra day to the fireworks noise. I don’t have air conditioning and all the windows are open all summer long unless I absolutely need to close them, but even when they are closed the fireworks from Carnegie Park are close enough to clearly see and hear in our house. But we really don’t need to wait for them because our neighbors have been shooting off their own display since the end of May, beginning with Memorial Day.
I live six miles from downtown Pittsburgh and when the Pittsburgh Pirates play ball they nearly always seem to shoot off fireworks over the river, and last night there were fireworks on the river for the beginning of the Three Rivers Regatta—these are still close enough that the deep concussion of the sound, after a few days of thunderstorms, had all the cats wondering if they should run to the basement, under the bed, or just stand still with big eyes and one paw lifted and hope for the best. At 2:00 a.m. someone in the neighborhood saw fit to try out some pyrotechnics a few streets away, and the sharp “crack” practically lifted all the cats off the bed. Aside from Lakota and Jojo who can’t hear as well, everyone’s been growing more frantic as the frightening noises have escalated.
They are all more and more stressed by these startling and unexplained noises day and night, leading up to the big day, and it all adds up for them. This is when we need to be extra careful with our animal companions, who will often act completely out of character as a result of stress from this constant barrage of noise on their sensitive ears, noise they can’t see or identify. Even a cat who has shown no interest in the outdoors might feel that being trapped inside an unable to get away from the noise may start to feel unsafe. A sudden loud noise can be startling, and a startled pet will often look for protection by trying to hide or running as far and as fast as it can from the source of the noise, often running away or into more danger if outdoors, or injuring itself in its haste indoors.
Other holiday dangers
In addition to loud unexpected noises, also consider the dangers of hot grills, alcoholic drinks, citronella candles and other parts of the holiday we take for granted but which may put your pet in the path of danger. Keep your pets away from your own holiday fun, especially at night outdoors when it’s hard to see what they are up to.
Preparing for the holiday
In part, preparing your pet for the holiday is not unlike preparing for an emergency because you need to prepare just in case your pet really does get frightened and run off. Make sure your pet has ID, such as a collar with tags and a microchip, so they are quickly and easily identifiable. Take a good photo of your pet just in case you need to make lost pet signs.
Consider giving your pet, especially cats, a safe room. On the night of the 4th while fireworks are blasting all around you, the safe room can be dark and closed off to the outside with soft music or comforting sounds to drown out the noise. You can even add calming pheromones and some fun food or treats to help them feel more comfortable.
Watch for changes in behavior such as lack of appetite, excessive talking, pacing or aggressiveness, and don’t discipline them when they act out of fear.
Before your celebration, or before you leave for your celebration, play with your pet and pay lots of attention to help ease their stress. If you have guests, let them know your pet should not be able to go outdoors or that your pet should stay in the safe room.
The contents of firecrackers, fireworks and most other pyrotechnics are toxic. Don’t let your pet anywhere near them if you have them, and the day after clean up any residue from your yard.
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Use these articles and infographics as a reference to help keep your pet safe this Independence Day.
Fourth of July Safety Tips from the ASPCA is a comprehensive list of all the material dangers your pet can encounter on a picnic or cookout or even in the house.
4th of July Cat Safety Tips by Pam Johnson Bennett, CABC, on Cat Behavior Associates, LLC is very cat -specific, giving tips on how to keep kitty safe, indoors, and even confined if necessary.
And visit Petfinder.com’s Independence Day post for more information and links to other blog posts.
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And don’t forget about keeping your pets, yourself and other animals safe in summer’s heat!
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