Saturday, July 4, 2020

Preparing Your Cats for Noisy Fireworks

Life would be wonderful if we could enjoy everything in life, including the joys of watching the amazing fireworks on Independence Day (aka 4th of July). Unfortunately, our feline companions don't always like the loud booming sounds of fireworks and may become stressed and fearful.

Persian cat watching fireworks

The first five years of my cats' lives, fireworks didn't bother them at all. In fact, Truffle would sit at the window in my office and watch the neighbors shooting off fireworks. Something happened about 4 years ago to make Truffle fearful of loud noises (fireworks, thunder, heavy rain, etc.) I don't know what the cause was, but suspect something happened to scare her when I was traveling out of town so much for my job and she was home alone.

Cats can become anxious whenever there is a sudden unexplained change (Dale, 2020) and this anxiety can turn into fear, stress, or cause health issues. My vet believes that whenever Truffle becomes anxious or stressed, she tends to have medical issues. That is the only common denominator we can find for when she becomes ill. We even believe stress may have caused her bladder stones. 

two persian cats hiding under dresser
Brulee and Truffle hiding

Dr. Kelly Ballantyne, veterinary behaviorist, states that when cats become scared, they will decrease activity and will often hide (ACVB, 2020). Rather than making your cat search for a hiding place (where you may not be able to find them), provide a comfortable place where your cat will go and feel safe. I have a couple of pieces of furniture where the cats can climb to the top or hide inside a cubby hole. Last night I was watching TV and I heard fireworks from the distance. Usually, Truffle will slink back to the bedroom and hide underneath the bed or the dresser. This time, she took advantage of staying in the same room with me and went inside her Vesper® Cottage from Catit®. She rested inside the cozy hideout the rest of the evening until it was time for bed. There are many types of cat furniture and beds that provide a hideout for your cats. Entice your cats to enjoy their hideouts prior to predicted fireworks or thunderstorms by giving them their favorite treats or catnip toy inside so they know where a safe place is when they need to escape.

two persian cats under chair
Truffle and Brulee seeking a hideout during a vet visit

Dr. Leni Kaplan (2016) says that noises could cause a pet to have an anxiety attack and may injure herself while trying to find a safe place to hide. If your cat can't find a place of safety, she may begin to panic and may unintentionally and maliciously bite someone who is "simple trying to soothe her or keep her safe."

In addition to providing a safe place, such as a bed or piece of furniture, prior to the predicted event, you may put them in a room with closed windows with a noise distraction such as television or classical music. I don't recommend closing your cats off in a bathroom or bedroom unless they are comfortable being in closed rooms. 

If you believe your cat is experiencing some type of fear, anxiety, or stress based on your observations. . here are some strategies suggested by animal behaviorists and my experiences that have helped with my two Persian cats. I was shocked to read from an infographic from Pet Amber Alert (2015) that Persians were the #1 breed of cat that runs away from fear and can be found in shelters. The sad part about this statistic is the 30-60% of lost pets are euthanized because they can’t be identified and returned to their owners. The key is to take steps to avoid your cat running away.

Keeping pets safe on 4th graphic
Graphic credit - Pet Amber Alert

Sometimes, your cat may need additional support to stay calm during fireworks or a thunderstorm. Your veterinarian my prescribe a tranquilizer or supplement to assist or you can purchase over the counter calming treats. There are a lot of calming treats/chews on the market. I’ve tried many of them with some success on my cats. I’ve found a lot of these calming treats are a little larger than a normal treat for my cats, so I need to break them into smaller pieces. As with other treatments, you need to try these treats with your cat before they are needed. I can’t count the number of times I’ve tried to give Truffle and Brulee a treat once that first clap of thunder or blast of a firework occurred. They are too fearful to try something new and are usually seeking a safe place to hide. During events such as the 4th of July weekend or New Year’s Eve weekend, I’ve learned to give calming treats to my cats about an hour prior to sundown.

Persian cat eating Tomlyn Calming Chew
Truffle preparing for fireworks by eating her Tomlyn Relax & Calm Chew

Since I heard some fireworks in the distance last night, I decided to give Truffle and Brulee one of their Tomlyn chews around 5:00 pm today. I had to break it into smaller pieces because it's a little larger than their normal treats, but both ate them with no problem. The girls are both sound asleep in the office with me as I am working on this post. 

I do want to emphasize that all pets should be kept indoors, if possible, during thunderstorms and when there are fireworks nearby. Using a combination of some of the above strategies and products are helping Truffle and Brulee better cope with thunderstorms and fireworks this season. I want to stress that not everything works for all cats. You should talk to your veterinarian and/or animal behaviorist to see what works best for your cat and you.

Also, it's important to have appropriate identification for your cat in case she slips outside and gets lost. This can be in the form of a tag on a collar or a microchip.

We hope you have a fun and safe 4th of July holiday this weekend, but please be sure to look out for your feline companions and take extra care to make sure they feel safe and secure with the loud noises and company. Also, during this time of the COVID-19 pandemic, we strongly encourage everyone to wear a mask and practice social distancing if you are out around people.
Two persian cats sleeping
Truffle and Brulee sleeping after getting their Tomlyn Relax & Calm Chew


Resources:

American College of Veterinary Behaviorists (July 21, 2020), Decoding Your Cat: The Ultimate Experts Explain Common Cat Behaviors and Reveal How to Prevent or Change Unwanted Ones. https://www.amazon.com/Decoding-Your-Cat-Ultimate-Behaviors/dp/1328489906

Cornell University (June 30, 2016). Fireworks Fear? Tips to Protect Your Pets. News Wise. https://www.newswise.com/articles/fireworks-fear-tips-to-protect-your-pets

Dale, Steve (July 2, 2020). Cats and Fireworks. Steve Dale Pet Worldhttps://www.stevedalepetworld.com/blog/cats-and-fireworks/

July 4th Fireworks – Keeping Your Pet Safe. July 2, 2015. Pet Amber Alert.com™.  https://www.petamberalert.com/blog/july-4th-fireworks-keeping-your-pet-safe/


18 comments:

  1. The fireworks here are usually pretty bad. We live across the street from our lake and that's where they set off the fireworks, night after night. Happy Independence Day from all of us!

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  2. I'm not as bothered by fireworks as most kitties are, but they really are bad this year! My human has the loud AC on high (even though she is freezing), and she keeps distracting me with treats and training sessions.

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  3. Hope all of you ot through safely !

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  4. Celestial Angel really, REALLY didn't like fireworks or thunder, or even the garbage truck going down the street, so she had several hidey holes. Although I tried to make up such things for her, she only wanted her own locales.

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  5. Great post. My cats didn't seem to notice fireworks because the windows were shut with the a/c and tv on. Sammy is afraid of thunder though.

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  6. These are great tips to help cats deal with the stress of fireworks and thunderstorms. They also are worth trying with dogs who are afraid of loud noises too.

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  7. Treeno gets really scared by storms and fireworks. Usually he just comes to me and plasters himself to my side. Some go in their carriers, and box land of chewy boxes is very popular hideout. Usually there’s a huge show at the middle school that’s less than a mile from my house so it’s crazy and loud. One thing I can thank covid for is that getting cancelled. So it was a non event here and the cats were very happy.

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  8. You have some great ideas here! I really like the idea of creating places for your kitties to hide. Manna and Dexter are not particularly fearful of fireworks, but you can tell that they don't enjoy them. I'm looking into different anxiety treatments for them just for some general anxiety, so I will have to try out those treats!

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  9. We are late. But we just hide. An TBT talks to us and brings food an treats, an that helped.

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  10. Fortunately, me and the doggy don't have a problem with fireworks. We even at times watch them through the glass door when the neighboring family fires them off in the street. Winks.

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  11. Our condo is next to a courtyard - maybe 20 feet across. Every year, people are out there setting off fireworks for hours. This year, neither cat seemed to care much - but in the past, both cats have been super anxious. Then again, since the buildings are so close on both sides of the courtyard - I get anxious too that one might hit a deck and start a fire - and my cats might pick up on that.

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  12. I hope you had a fun 4th despite the fireworks making the cats nervous. My senior dog wasn't bothered by loud noises when he was younger, but the older he's gotten the more sound sensitive he is. Fireworks and sometimes thunder storms make him nervous now. I didn't think we'd have to deal with fireworks this year since we moved out into the country, but it turns out fireworks are legal here and a lot of individuals set them off. I've tried OTC calming products with my dogs but never found one that really made a huge difference. I think before next year rolls around I'll have a talk with our vet and see what she recommends.

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  13. Oh, those awful fireworks. I agree the calming treats are huge. I break them up, too, and give the pieces to the cats with some Temptations. They eat the calming treats along with the really good ones.

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  14. While neither of my cats are worried about thunderstorms, Pippen is NOT a fan of fireworks. One of the things that works best for her, we have found, is to provide a distraction so that she's not focusing on them. I usually set up my tablet with her bird videos rolling somewhere away from the windows and that keeps her preoccupied more often than not.

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  15. We have fireworks on Bonfire Night 5th November and it is the worst night of the year for us so we take preventative measures. Unless of course you are our friend Thomas who sleeps through the lot * eyeroll * .

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  16. Great article! Whenever our cats became stressed over a situation we would find them hiding in on the top shelf of our closets. They would squeeze themselves in to the back corner where it was hard to see them.

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  17. I always only had dogs; it never occurred to me that fireworks could scare kitties too. Makes sense, though, that they would bother any animal.

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  18. Although my dogs are okay with fireworks and thunderstorms (for now) these are great tips in case that changes!

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