Firework Safety for Pets: Tips from Leading Vet Charity PDSA

CAT and fireworks

The bright flashes and loud bangs of fireworks can be exciting for us, but confusing and frightening for pets. Many pet owners are aware of how their dogs and cats react to fireworks, but small pets such as rabbits, Guinea pigs, hamsters, rats, and mice can be frightened too.

And with celebrations for Eid-al-Adha, Festival of the Sacrifice, around the corner, as well as wedding season upon us, leading vet charity PDSA is reminding pet owners of its firework safety advice.

“It’s difficult for smaller pets such as rabbits and Guinea pigs to understand that they aren’t in danger when they hear or see fireworks,” explains PDSA Vet Nurse Nina Downing. “Most small pets are preyed upon in the wild, and so they tend to be on constant high alert to dangers and extremely sensitive to unfamiliar sights, noises and smells.

Signs of fear in small pets

“Signs of stress and fear in small pets can be more difficult to spot than in cats and dogs so it’s important to watch them closely,” adds Nina. “Some signs you may see are:

  • Stamping their back feet (rabbits)
  • Agitated/rapid movements
  • Trembling
  • Breathing faster
  • Staying very still in one spot
  • Trying to escape
  • Hiding
  • Eating less than normal
  • Aggression
  • Tooth grinding
  • A change in toileting habits.”

Nina’s top tips for firework season

“If your pets live outdoors, bring them inside for firework season and when fireworks are going off,” Nina says.

“Plug in a ‘calming’ diffuser before they are moved, so they aren’t stressed by the sudden change in environment, make sure the room is cool (but not cold) and the relaxing scents of the diffuser are circulating to ensure a smooth transition. You could practice getting them used to being inside for shorter periods of time on the lead up to firework season. If you don’t have a room inside your house available, move their hutch into a car-free garage or shed. If the hutch can’t be moved indoors, turn it to face the wall at night (so that they can’t see the flashes of light and it dulls the sound), or partly cover it with old carpet or blankets to block out as much light and sound as possible whilst still making sure there is good ventilation.

“If there are fireworks due to go off near to your house, make sure that any blankets used are not flammable, in case a stray firework lands on it. For very small pets like hamsters, mice, rats or gerbils, which routinely live indoors; move their home further into the room. Close windows so any noise is muffled.

“Give all small pets plenty of hiding places so they feel safe – cardboard boxes or tubes work well, just make sure they have more than one entrance/exit so they don’t feel trapped and be sure that there’s plenty of soft, deep bedding in them, so that it creates a sound barrier and they can burrow down in it if they want.

“If inside the house, close the curtains before it gets dark and leave the lights on to hide the flashes. You could also play some music to help drown out the noises from fireworks. Classical can work well, or something with a deep bass to help cover up any bangs – just make sure it’s at a volume your small pet is comfortable with i.e. not too loud!

“Keep them occupied with their favourite treat or toy and if they are a bonded pair or group, keep them together so they feel safe and secure.”

Nina adds that if your small pet is still scared of fireworks despite all of these steps, speak to your vet for advice.

PDSA is the UK’s largest vet charity providing a vital service for pets across the UK whose owners struggle to afford treatment costs for their sick and injured pets. For many vulnerable pets, PDSA is there to help when there is nowhere else for their owners to turn. Support from players of People’s Postcode Lottery helps us reach even more pet owners with vital advice and information.

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