The 4th of July is coming very soon and it is a time for celebration and gathering of friends and family. While we enjoy socializing, eating, drinking, and watching fireworks, it is often a very scary and stressful experience for our furry friends. Of course, there are some that it won't seem to bother at all. Most of our own cats aren't bothered by it however, we live out in the country and fireworks aren't going off in our yard. However, some cats will feel anxious and scared during this time.
So, what can we do to help them cope?
Watch a firework display on tv rather than setting them off in your own yard. But, what about neighbors or if you do choose to set off fireworks in your yard? Please read on.
Providing a stress-free environment will be essential for your cats. Since noise is what will most likely create anxiety or fear, keep your cat or cats where they feel safe. If you have company over, you may want to place your cats in 1 room with access to their litterbox and a "den" type bed or box to hide in. Some cats might want to be up high, so a table or a cat tower might be helpful. Make sure they have access to a water bowl, and if they will be in there for several hours, a food bowl as well. Put some familiar and favorite toys in the room and bonus if you can include a cat scratcher. They can use the scratcher to relieve stress. Some cats might even enjoy it if you create a tent or fort by draping a bed sheet over some chairs. If you are the only ones home and planning a quiet evening, you can still do the above however, you may choose to do it without confining the cats to 1 room. If you have a white noise machine, playing that can help drone out the noise from the fireworks. Cats sometimes enjoy classical music, so you could provide that for them if you don't have a white noise machine. Play the music or white noise at a comfortable level. You may even want to try this with your cats a few times before the holiday to make sure this doesn't cause more anxiety.
If the lights from the fireworks cause your cats anxiety, cover all windows until the nearby fireworks are over.
Providing a fun play session before company arrives and/or before the fireworks begin can help your cat to relax. Get out their favorite toy, and get them running and chasing. Wand toys are great for this. Give them a good workout, then a light snack afterward. Just like people, after exercise and a bit of food, they might feel relaxed.
There are products available to help ease a cat's anxiety. Please note that not every product might work, but some do. Be sure to follow the instructions provided for any product. Some popular products are:
Even if your cats are comfortable with all the commotion of people around and fireworks, placing them in their own room might still be worthwhile. This prevents any escapes out the door as people are coming and going. At the very least, keep an eye on your cats and ask your family and friends to do the same.
Another really important thing to do is to ensure your cat is wearing a break-away collar with it's tags on it. In case your cat does escape your home, it's a good visual to anyone that spots your cat that it does belong to someone. You definitely want to make sure your cat is microchipped. A week before the festivities, contact the company the microchip is with to ensure the information they have is up to date. Also, it is always a good idea to have your vet scan your cat's microchip at each visit to ensure it is still working.
Some cats can become reactive or aggressive when they feel stressed. They may think that when someone pets them, that it was actually that "loud scary noise". Your cat might react by swatting, scratching or biting someone (or another pet). If this is the case, your cat should be kept in it's own safe place until your company leaves. Some cats can take up to 24 hours to calm down.
If your cat is reactive or shows signs of stress and fear, help them. Don't punish them for their behavior. Do not force your cat into being pet or held, by anyone and especially by strangers. We all love for our family and friends to meet or interact with our furry friends. But, during a time when your cat might be feeling more stressed than usual, it is a better idea to show them the millions of photos on your phone instead.
If your cat's history of dealing with fireworks, storms or loud noises causes your cat to have an extreme reaction such as aggression, or eliminating outside the litterbox during this time, please reach out to your veterinarian for advice. Please do so weeks in advance of an event you are aware of in case medication is prescribed and needs time to work.