6 Tips for Cats and Dogs With Fireworks Anxiety
Fireworks displays are a highlight of summer for many people, but the flashes and bangs during fireworks season can be terrifying for pets.
In fact, July 5th is one of the busiest days of the year for animal shelters, because so many pets run away in fear the night before.
Let’s take a closer look at why some cats and dogs are scared of fireworks, and what can you do to help a pet with fireworks anxiety.
Why are some pets afraid of fireworks?
Statistics show more than 40% of dogs have noise phobias. Pets perceive loud noises as a threat, so they may show a reaction to fireworks. Fireworks can be even more distressing than other noises, because of the random nature of the booms.
While lots of attention is focused on dogs’ fear of fireworks, cats can have fireworks phobia as well. Since cats tend to run off and hide independently, owners may be unaware of their cat’s fear during fireworks.
If you have a newer pet and aren’t sure how they’ll handle Independence Day festivities, think about how the pet reacts during thunderstorms. Animals who are afraid of thunderstorms often don’t like fireworks, either.
It’s a good idea to make sure your pet’s collar, tags and microchip information are updated, just in case they run away to escape the commotion.
Signs of fireworks anxiety in pets
How can you tell if your pet is scared of fireworks? Watch for these typical signs of fear.
A dog that’s scared of fireworks might whine, pant, drool, pace, hide or follow you around when fireworks start. They might yawn excessively, lose their appetite or have potty accidents.
Cats with fireworks anxiety are more likely to hide under furniture or another small space, away from people. They may raise their fur, hiss, lose their appetite, tremble or groom excessively.
Pets with severe fireworks anxiety may destroy items around the house, especially if left alone. Terrified animals have been known to scratch through drywall, shatter windows and destroy furniture in response to fireworks fears.
Tips for keeping your pet calm during fireworks
- Create a safe space indoors where your pet can stay occupied
Make your pet a safe indoor space before 4th of July fireworks begin. Don’t leave your animal outside, where booms and flashes will be more intense. Soundproof the space as much as possible. If your dog is crate-trained, soft bedding inside the crate can help him feel safe and protected.
If you have a pet who fears thunderstorms, take note of where they go during a storm to feel safe. That same spot could be a good place for a 4th of July hideout to help them remain calm.
Set your pet up with a favorite toy, like a chew toy or dog puzzle toy, to keep their brain occupied instead of focused on the scary sounds coming from the sky. Try filling a Kong or similar toy with wet food or peanut butter and freeze it for a long-lasting treat.
Closing your windows and blinds or curtains during fireworks helps to minimize flashing lights and sounds and can help your pet feel safer.
- Play some music or white noise
Keeping music or TV on in the house can help distract your pet from the booms and flashes.
Studies have shown that dogs feel calmed by classic music. Some streaming services even have playlists created just for pets.
- Exercise your pet
Get your dog tired out with a long walk or dog park visit earlier in the day. Like the saying goes, “A tired dog is a happy dog”…and she’ll be less likely to get anxious later when fireworks start.
Feed your pet dinner and go out for potty trips before it gets dark, since fireworks usually happen right after sunset. Don’t put your dog in the uncomfortable situation of trying to hold it because it’s too noisy to go outside.
- Try medicine or supplements to reduce fireworks anxiety
Anti-anxiety medications for dogs and cats exist, but like any pharmaceuticals can have negative side effects. Think of medication as a last resort. Be sure to talk with your vet about the pros and cons of anti-anxiety medicine for pets.
Natural pet supplements containing L-theanine, an amino acid, are a great option.
Scare-D-Pet™ is a popular safe, all-natural anti-anxiety remedy for pets. The homeopathic formula promotes calm and relaxation in cats and dogs. It produces a gentle, sedative-life effect.
Scare-D-Pet™ comes in an easy-to-use dropper bottle that pets don’t mind.
See more favorite supplements for anxiety in pets here.
- Get your dog an anti-anxiety pressure wrap
ThunderShirt and other similar pressure wrap garments create gentle, constant pressure that calms the animal and releases endorphins.
The wraps are available in stores, or dog owners can DIY with an old t-shirt or stretchy material. While pressure wraps aren’t effective for every dog, many pet owners find them helpful.
To make sure your pet is actually calmed by the wrap and not just fearful or constrained by the fabric, check for soft eyes and relaxed breathing. These are signs of calmness versus fear.
- Desensitize your pet
Get your dog or cat used to the sound of fireworks by playing the sound at home. There are even videos on YouTube you can use. Give your pet treats while the sounds are playing so they come to associate the noises with positive feelings.
For dogs, learning the command “settle” when loud noises or flashes occur can be helpful. Start well before the 4th of July, so your dog has plenty of time to learn the cue word and your expectations. Eventually, they will become desensitized to the experience.
If this doesn’t resolve the problem, call a veterinary behaviorist or animal trainer who deals with pet anxiety. Ask about positive reinforcement training programs to help desensitize pets to fearful situations. Make sure to book an appointment well before July 4, so you have time to implement their suggestions.
Pet fireworks anxiety most likely won’t resolve itself without your intervention. Patience and love are key to keeping anxiety under control, so humans and pets can enjoy summer festivities together.
- “8 Tips for Helping a Dog That’s Scared of Fireworks.” PetMD. Accessed May 24, 2022. https://www.petmd.com/dog/8-tips-helping-dogs-thats-scared-fireworks
- LaMotte, S. “Pets and fireworks: How to keep your animals calm and safe on July 4.” CNN. Accessed May 24, 2022. https://www.cnn.com/2021/07/04/health/pets-fireworks-tips-wellness/index.html
- Traverse, T. “How to Keep your Dog Calm During Fireworks.” American Kennel Club AKC. Accessed May 24, 2022. https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/training/how-to-keep-your-dog-calm-during-fireworks/
- “How to Keep Your Dog Calm During Fireworks on the 4th of July.” K9 of Mine. Accessed May 24, 2022. https://www.k9ofmine.com/calm-dog-during-fireworks/