Cats that are stressed by fireworks season may react in a variety of ways. Frightened cats may be startled by noises, run away and become lost or even run across roads and be involved in accidents. You might notice that your cat develops behavioural issues, such as toileting in the house or excessively grooming itself. Other signs of stress include:
Many cats can become distressed at the loud noises and lights that Bonfire Night and other festivities bring. Keeping them inside once it is dark can help to keep them calm, and reduces the risk of them stumbling across a noisy fireworks display. When keeping your cat indoors, you’ll need to provide them with the following;
Remember to make sure that all cat flaps, windows and doors are closed to avoid your cat feeling stressed and attempting to escape. Cats can squeeze into tight spaces – ensuring any unsuitable areas are blocked off is important to keep them safe.
You might find that playing soothing music helps your cat, as does keeping the curtains drawn. This will reduce awareness of any flashes that might spook your cat. Alternatively, try using a pheromone plug-in diffuser - it can be used to reduce anxiety and create a calming effect. Start using it a couple of weeks before fireworks season starts and site it in the room where your cat spends most of their time.
The important thing to remember is not to reinforce fearful behaviour by overly comforting a cat that looks anxious. Keep calm yourself and ensure your cat has a safe space.
If your cat is particularly anxious during fireworks season and Bonfire night, avoid leaving them in the house alone. Knowing that you are around may help them to feel more settled. If you do leave the house, make sure you give your cat a safe space to relax in while you’re gone.
If your cat is particularly fearful of fireworks, make sure they have a space to hide in – a cardboard box lined with blankets, for example. It is important for cats to have the chance to hide as it helps them to feel safer. A high spot, for example on top of a wardrobe or shelf, is even better as it provides a good vantage point.
While you might be tempted to keep your cat in one room, this can make your cat feel more stressed. Keep access to all safe areas of the house and they’ll be content in exploring their surroundings.
While the sounds of fireworks can be stress-inducing for cats, the flashes of light that come with a display can be worrying too. Closing the curtains and or covering windows with a blind is a good way to block out sudden bursts of light and ensure your cat keeps calm.
Keeping background noise going, like the radio or television, can be helpful to reduce the impact of sudden sounds that come with firework displays. Playing some types of music, such as classical music, can be particularly calming for cats.
If your cat is stressed out, attempting to continually give them cuddles or pick them up can increase their stress. Cats can also take a while to calm down, so leaving them to their own devices until they are ready to come to you is a good idea.
A new toy or delicious treat can be a welcome distraction from the noise of fireworks. Purchase something special for them and they should be focused on something more enjoyable.
Using a pheromone plug-in diffuser is a good way to reduce anxiety and create a calming effect for your cat. A product such as Feliway is ideal to use in your home. Begin using it a couple of weeks before fireworks season starts and place it in the room where your cat spends most of its time.
While it can be difficult to see that your cat is feeling fearful, it is important not to reinforce scared behaviour by comforting a cat that looks scared. By carrying on as normal and keeping as calm as possible, your cat should know it is in a safe space and feel much more content.
If you’re worried that your cat is still stressed out when it comes to fireworks season, it is best to visit your vet. They’ll be able to refer you to a professional behaviourist, who can help with reducing your cat’s stress.
If you’re already worried about next year’s fireworks season, speak to your vet sooner rather than later. Desensitising your cat to noises and lights can take some time, and you’ll need lots of patience to help them through.
You can find a registered behaviourist at https://www.asab.org/ccab/