Cats and Fireworks: How to Make it Work this Holiday | Catzio

Cats and Fireworks: How to Make it Work this Holiday

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  1. Fireworks: Exciting for You, Scary for Your Cat
  2. How to Desensitize Your Cat to Firework Shows
  3. Keep Your Cat Calm through the Noise


    Holidays that are celebrated with fireworks, such as New Year's Day and the 4th of July, are some of the toughest times of the year for cats and dogs. Although some humans enjoy the sounds of colorful explosions, our fur babies typically suffer a great deal.

    Luckily, there are a few things you can do to prepare your cat for noisy firework displays. Learn how (and get insights on your cat’s fearfulness) by checking out the guide below.

    Photo by Ariana Suarez on Unsplash

    Fireworks: Exciting for You, Scary for Your Cat

    Many human beings are comfortable enough in their homes and neighborhoods that a firework’s boom doesn’t deter them. Plus, it’s easier to not be afraid of an expected explosion. For instance, your family might visit a local park every year to watch the fireworks illuminate the sky.

    But while humans can keep track of the 4th of July, New Years, and other holidays that feature fireworks, cats cannot. So, it’s easy for them to be thrown off by the sounds of explosions in the air, even if they’ve experienced a noisy holiday or two.

    Still, in some cases, cats can get used to the sound of fireworks as it grows older—but only if you help them prepare for it. Think about it: As a baby, you were probably terrified by fireworks! Many babies are. But as you grew older and acclimated to the noise each, the sounds became less scary.

    In the meantime, cats can have strong reactions to the abrupt, explosive noises. So, you’ll need to be persistent in desensitizing your feline companion before the big night.

    How to Desensitize Your Cat to Firework Shows

    Desensitization is critical to preparing your cat for fireworks. Skipping or neglecting it will make it much harder for you to comfort your cat during the holiday. Here are a few easy steps to desensitization and other methods for calming your cats anxiety during the holiday.

    1. Desensitizing Your Cat to Noisy Sounds

    Don’t worry—you don’t need to bang metal bowls together or make other riotous crashing noises. In fact, it’s best that you don’t, especially not too early in your desensitization training. Otherwise, you increase the risk of traumatizing your kitty, which would only make things much worse.

    Instead, you want to start slow and low, then work from there. Use the following steps:

    1. Identify a noise level that your cat can tolerate without getting scared.  
    2. “Counter-condition” the cat to that noise. In other words, give the cat something positive or neutral to associate with the noise. Try any of these options:
      • Give your cat treats when they hear the scary sound.
      • Play with your cat during and/or immediately after the agitating noise.
      • Cuddle with your cat while the loud noise sounds in the background.
    3. Repeat this process as you approach the holiday. Depending on your cat, you may need a few days to several weeks. Let your cat set the pace. Pushing too hard can backfire!

    2. Create a Safe Space for Your Cat

    Creating a “safe space” for your cat can mean a lot of different things. While your cat might be alright with sharing the living room with the rest of the family, other cats need more space and might require an entire room to keep calm and quiet. It’s best to take the time to get to know your cat far before the fireworks come out.

    That way, you can watch their natural movements throughout the home and note their favorite rest spots. This will ease your efforts in desensitization by making your cat feel safe and secure, despite the booming sounds in the sky.

    Once you’ve determined your cat’s unique needs, set up its safe space with a few essentials, such as:

    • Cat hammock: Lots of cats tend to bolt toward a hidey hole when they hear fireworks begin. Set up a cardboard box, comfy hammock, or enclosed cat bed for your cat to snuggle into and forget about the outside world for a bit.
    • Cat scratch board toy: Cats need to scratch and rub their scent glands onto items in the room to establish the space as their own. Set one or two scratch boards in the safe room several months before the fireworks begin. This will ensure that your cat can make itself at home feel as secure as possible throughout the noisy night.
    • Enrichment toys: Toys are a great way to keep your cat occupied during fireworks. Distracting your cat with a plush mouse toy or autonomous flipper fish toy can help support your earlier desensitization efforts by refocusing your cat’s energy on enjoyment instead of fear.
    A clickable thumbnail image that leads to an article discussing cats' attraction to real and imaginary boxes.

    Experts’ Guidance on Calming Cats During Fireworks

    Every year, veterinarians warn cat owners to get microchips as part of their pet fireworks safety announcements. They also strongly suggest locking the doors. Why? Around the holidays that feature fireworks, veterinarians get a spike in clinic visits and calls.

    Vets Now experts report that they treat hundreds of pets that have been injured in collisions after bolting out into the street due to their fear of fireworks. Sadly, those that aren’t struck by vehicles tend to go missing instead.

    4. Use Calming Agents

    This option will vary according to your individual cat’s needs. Some cats will do best with large or small doses, while others may not need it at all. In any case, there are lots of supplements that can help to keep your cat calm through the holiday, two of which are:

    • Calming pheromones: Pheromone-based products like Feliway Friends have been shown to significantly reduce aggression in cats. Similarly, it can help your kitty unwind during your fireworks celebration.
    • CBD (cannabidiol) and similar natural supplements: Some veterinarians may be the administration of CBD to your cat, as the compound has been widely acclaimed for reducing anxiety in humans and pets.

    Before offering your cat any drug or another substance for calming anxiety—whether inhaled, consumed, or topical—consult with your veterinarian. This way, you can avoid any accidents as you prepare for the holiday.

    Keep Your Cat Calm through the Noise

    Although the thunderous noises of a fireworks may be easy for you to shrug off, they can be pretty rough on your cat.

    To get your cat ready for the upcoming festivities, work on desensitizing them to loud sounds. Once the day has arrived make sure that safe room is stocked with enrichment and plenty of places to hide. If that’s not quite enough, consider offering your cat a calming supplement as well to ensure the night goes smoothly. And no matter what you do, consult with your veterinarian to keep your cat safe, no matter how it copes with the noise.

    About the Author

    My name is Jazmin "Sunny" Murphy, and I am a science communicator and web content writer. Since 2015, I've been producing scientific content that is written in plain English. My love for life science has influenced my professional and academic aspirations since I was a kid. I hold a Bachelor of Science in Zoology and 21 units of a Master's education in Environmental Policy & Management (concentration: Fish and Wildlife Management). You can learn more about me and my science writing and reporting work at my website, Black Flower Writing Services.

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