Bonfire night is often a colourful and entertaining evening, but it can be stressful; loud noises, bright flashes of light, and the smell of smoke can cause anxiety and even fear for some. A lot of the time, all of these aspects of fireworks can be even worse for pets, especially cats.
Although many pet owners know cats and fireworks rarely mix, seeing their beloved cats suffer from fear can be upsetting, even more so when this reaction is a surprise. Like people, cats can quickly become conditioned to certain noises, smells, and sights, so a firework display in the area can make it difficult for cats to cope.
Knowing how to help cats on bonfire night will help avoid stressful situations, so this post will outline the top tips to prepare and keep cats calm during the firework season.
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When is Bonfire Night?
Bonfire Night, also known as Guy Fawkes Night or Firework Night, occurs during the primary firework season in the UK. It is celebrated on the 5th of November to commemorate the failed Gunpowder Plot of 1605.
Other times of the year are rather famous for fireworks, too, such as New Year’s Eve. It is important to know that only people aged over 18 can buy fireworks on specific dates of the year, as stated here.
Signs of Anxiety Cats Display
Owning a cat gives an insight into their behaviour. A cat’s behaviour can be a great indicator of their overall well-being, and any changes can indicate their feeling anxious or scared. No one knows a cat better than its owner, but some signs are universal for cats experiencing discomfort.
Of course, some felines don’t react to fireworks. But it is always best to prepare and be aware of the signs of anxiety cats display in case of any surprises. This includes:
Mild signs of anxiety in cats:
- Avoiding eye contact
- Shifting their head or body away
- Holding their tail close to their body
- Flicking their tail slightly
- Their pupils might be dilated
Moderate signs of anxiety in cats:
- Holding their ears partially to the side
- Breathing quicker
- Holding their tail tightly to their body
- Crouching low and shying away
Severe signs of anxiety in cats:
- Trying to run and escape
- Freezing completely
- Fully dilated pupils
- Ears held tightly against their head
- Hair standing on end
- Staring intensely
- Becoming aggressive
Ways to Prepare Before Bonfire Night
Before bonfire night comes around, pet owners should take the time to make some preparations to ensure their cat remains safe and calm. These are a few tips to make getting ready for fireworks easier:
Check the cat’s microchip details are up-to-date
Microchips are incredibly useful in reuniting lost pets with their owners after they’ve gone missing, but only if the contact details are updated regularly. This is why it is essential to keep your records updated if you move home, change contact numbers, and so on.
If you have not already done so, get your cat microchipped as soon as possible. Although it is not yet mandatory, the government plans to make microchipping cats aged over 20 weeks a legal requirement in England. This will ensure your cat is found and brought home quickly if they run away due to loud bangs.
Keep cats indoors
Although cat doors are nifty devices, they pose an easy escape for cats when stressful situations arise. In the case of fireworks, running outside where the noises are louder isn’t the best action, so it’s best to ensure all cat flaps are entirely closed once the cat is indoors.
If possible, cats should be kept indoors overnight. Before nighttime falls, it is a good idea to draw curtains, close windows, and turn on the TV or radio to help muffle the sounds of fireworks outside. Providing them with an easy-to-find litter tray is essential, too.
Also, if you have a cat that loves to climb, keeping windows closed might be a good idea to prevent cats from trying to escape. As your cat will likely have free reign of the house when it is kept indoors, ensure all windows are shut.
Buy de-stress plug-ins or sprays
Various products designed to help cats relax during stressful situations, such as Feliway, Adaptil, and Pet Remedy, are available online or in pet stores. They come in plug-in and spray forms.
These products act as a synthetic version of the natural pheromones cats produce when they feel comfortable and can help prevent unwanted behaviour.
Contact the vet
If your cat does not react well during the firework season, it might be best to seek advice on further preparations with a vet. They might suggest medication to help with anxiety, such as anti-anxiety medication and pheromone diffusers.
Ways to Keep Your Cat Calm on Bonfire Night
Keeping cats calm during bonfire night might not be an easy task, but there are a few things pet owners can do on bonfire night to help their felines feel more relaxed.
Build a cat hideout
Cats are well-known for hiding in places, whether under a bed or up a tree. To help encourage this behaviour during stressful situations, you can provide your cat with a safe space in the form of a cardboard box lined with blankets.
Providing them with a comforting hiding space will help the cat feel safer. If possible, try to make this space small enough, so your cat feels secure but big enough for them to turn around and lie down. It would help if you did this in a space they feel comfortable already, as they will be more likely to use the hideout.
Play background noise at a low volume
During the fireworks season, there is a lot of noise. Firework noise can be erratic and loud, which can frighten cats, so having other noise will mask the noises outside and divert their attention somewhat.
Playing background noise, such as white noise or radio music, will also help keep your cat calm. For some cats, classical music specifically can soothe their nerves. However, it would be best to begin playing music before the fireworks start to make the cat accustomed to the sounds.
Allow the cat to have its own space
Although indoor cats might be used to sharing their space with people, giving them their space is essential when stressed. If you plan to keep your outdoor cat indoors, providing them with additional space for alone might be best.
A few options include a separate room, a high shelf, or a cat tree. As cats are naturally curious and territorial, having a dedicated space to explore and feel safe in will help them feel more comfortable during stressful situations.
But be sure to block off any unsuitable areas they shouldn’t be able to access. Cats can squeeze into tight spaces, such as behind appliances, cupboards, or cabinets, so close any gaps.
It is also best to avoid picking cats up when they are anxious or scared, as they can quickly become aggressive and may scratch or bite to escape.
Provide your cat with distractions
Similar to playing music at a low volume, a new toy, and some treats or cat food can be an excellent distraction for cats, taking their mind off of the firework noise outside. This can stop them from becoming stressed and showing unwanted behaviour, such as scratching or acting aggressively.
Cats can be very easily bored, mainly if they are used to exploring outside, so it is essential to provide them with toys and something to keep them entertained. Some great distractions include a scratching post, a cat tree, or a cardboard box filled with blankets. Other toys, like an electronic mouse or even feathers on a string, will help take your cat’s mind off any sudden noises from outside.
To Sum Up
The fireworks season can be stressful for cats up and down the country; that is why it is essential to know how to care for cats on bonfire night. Following the advice in this post can help your cat feel safe during the fireworks season.