Fireworks can be terrifying for wild animals. They don’t know what’s happening or what to expect. The loud noises and earth-shaking explosions come with no warning for them and happen sporadically, causing them to panic. They can’t escape the chaos. This can have devastating consequences for wildlife. These animals flee their homes in fear and then get lost, unable to find their way back. Confused and scared animals can wander into roadways or fly into buildings in an attempt to reach safety.
Our companion animals are no different. While some pets seem to show no reaction at all to fireworks, others are consumed with fear. Not every cat will be scared of the noise, but some are seemingly inconsolable. The days surrounding July 4th in the United States are the busiest days for animal shelters, which have been inundated with scared pets that have fled their homes.
Keep Pets Inside
Before we get into our list of calming tips, note that it is vital to keep your cats inside during fireworks. If your cat likes to venture outside, letting them out during the noise can disorient them and cause them to get lost or injured. Keep a close eye on your cat, and make sure they can’t escape the house. When opening doors, check to make sure your cat isn’t anywhere near them. Scared cats may try to bolt any way that they can find, such as through open doors or windows. Keep all pets indoors during fireworks.
12 Tips for Calming Your Cat
When cats are terrified of fireworks, we have to get creative in thinking of ways that might calm them because we can’t turn off the noise. Unfortunately, they likely won’t be completely calm again until the celebrations die down, but there are a few things that you can do to help them through this time. Here is a list of 12 tips to calm your cat during fireworks.
1. Don’t Reprimand Them
Your cat has absolutely no idea what’s going on, and they can’t help but be terrified. If you get upset and discipline them for acting the way they are, it will only further terrorize them. In addition to not understanding what’s happening outside their home, they also won’t understand why you’re suddenly upset with them. Stay as calm as possible, and remember that your cat is in survival mode. They should not be corrected for their instinctive behaviors.
2. Keep the Windows and Doors Closed
Not only does keeping your windows and doors closed prevent your cat from being able to bolt out and run away, but it also blocks out some of the noise and odor of fireworks. Cats have sensitive noses, and the smell of fireworks exploding can add to their already heightened anxiety. Reduce the sounds and smells as much as you can by shutting them out. Close any curtains, blinds, or drapes to help block out the random flashes of light.
If you must keep your windows open for airflow, make sure to only open windows that have screens, and check that those screens are secure. A scared cat can push their way out of loose screens. Open the windows just enough so your cat cannot fit their body through the openings.
3. Give Them a Hiding Space
Scared cats retreat to dark, safe places when they’re feeling scared. These places give them a sense of security and are vital in keeping them calm. Your cat may choose to stay out in the open, maybe curled on the couch by you. However, if you have a cat that prefers to hide when feeling scared or stressed, it’s best to allow them to do it. Don’t force them out of this spot. They may not be comfortable with being handled or touched now, and forcing them out can add to their anxiety. Make it comfortable for them. Include blankets or their bed to make it cozy, and put their litter box and food and water as close to this spot as you can.
If the cat doesn’t have a hiding space already, you can create one for them in a quiet part of the house. If you secure them in one room, you can hang out in the room with them, even if they’re under a bed or hiding behind furniture. Your presence nearby can help calm them.
A cave-style or covered bed will also provide a soft place for your cat where they feel safe. You can buy one of these or make one yourself out of a cardboard box and blankets.
4. Don’t Confine Your Cat
It might seem sensible to close your cat in one room or part of the house if they’re feeling stressed, but leaving them alone can do more harm than good. If your cat is scared, locking them up can scare them more. Unless you are going to stay in the area with your cat, allow them free access to all parts of the house so they can choose to go where they feel the safest.
5. Stay Calm
Being overly concerned about your cat and paying too much attention to what they’re doing may show your cat that there’s something to be afraid of, after all. Cats pick up on your emotions and will become more scared if they think that you’re upset about something too. Be casual and calm, and speak to your cat in soothing tones. Allow them to hide if they want to without being alarmed. Move about the house as you always do and as if nothing at all out of the ordinary is happening. If nothing changes in your world, your cat will realize that nothing has changed in theirs either. They may still be scared until the noise stops, but if they know that you’re not panicking, it won’t cause them to panic any more than they already are. We can’t explain to them what’s happening, but we can show them that it isn’t affecting us.
6. Comfort Your Cat
Provide the comfort that your cat wants. Maybe your cat doesn’t hide during fireworks and instead clings to you for safety. If they’re climbing in your lap or trying to bury their face in your neck, offer calm comfort. Perhaps your cat doesn’t want to be touched but doesn’t want to be too far away from you either. Let your cat set the pace, and pet them gently if that’s what they need. Sometimes just a hand on your cat’s back will be enough to let them know that you’re there and not going to let something happen to them.
7. Use a Wrap
Anxiety wraps, like Thundershirts, can help provide a safe, secure feeling. They snugly swaddle your cat to promote relaxation. Some cats respond well to this feeling of protection.
8. Hire a Sitter
It’s best to stay home with your cat if you know that they’re scared of loud noises. You will be able to provide them the most comfort even if they spend their time hiding. Just knowing that you’re there can alleviate some of their distress.
Being left alone during this time can create more anxiety for them. If you must leave home during fireworks, schedule a cat sitter or ask a friend or relative to come by and make sure your cat is okay. It will be beneficial to the cat to have someone around, and you will be able to know the status of your cat’s health and safety while you’re gone.
Make sure your sitter knows to keep the cat away from the doors and windows, and remind them to notice where the cat is in the house before they leave.
9. Block the Sound
Use white noise machines, turn up the television, or put on the radio to drown out as much of the firework noise as you can. Fans and air conditioners can also act as sound buffers. Familiar sounds, like television and music, can soothe your cat and give them a sense of normalcy.
- You may also be interested in: How to Calm Your Cat During a Thunderstorm (7 Tips That Work)
10. Offer Distractions
If your cat isn’t hiding, try playing with them to distract them from what’s happening. Use their favorite toys, and try to get them involved in a play session that will keep them entertained and distracted while burning off some of that nervous energy.
You can also try to distract them from the noise by offering high-value treats whenever the booms hit. Instead of your cat being terrified of the sound, they can come to associate this noise with a tasty reward. Choose something that your cat doesn’t normally get or something that they really enjoy, like tuna or bits of cooked chicken breast. They may enjoy the snacks so much, they forget to be scared.
11. Use Pheromones
Pheromone diffusers and sprays are said to be made of the same facial pheromones present in cats that enable them to bond with each other and mark their territory. These pheromones can also have a calming, soothing effect. For some cats, these products are reported to have no effect. For others, they make a noticeable difference.
12. Use Medication
If all else fails and your cat is showing signs of being unable to calm down, speak with your veterinarian. Never offer your cat any medication of your own, and don’t give them anything that hasn’t been cleared with your vet first. Your vet may prescribe anti-anxiety medication for periods of high stress for your cat, like thunder, fireworks, traveling, vet visits, and more.
Over-the-counter medications and calming treats are also available, but speak to your vet before offering any of these products to your cat.
How to Tell If Your Cat Is Anxious
Even if your cat is normally confident and outgoing, the sounds of fireworks can cause them to panic. Cats have a much stronger hearing than humans do, and they are sensitive to loud noises. In addition to the obvious signs that your cat is scared, like bolting from the room and trying to hide, there are other things to watch for to determine your cat’s anxiety level.
Fireworks can be a scary time for your cat. It’s hard to comfort a scared animal because you can’t explain to them what’s happening and why. By understanding why your cat is scared and allowing them to express this fear without reprimanding them for it, you can help them through it.
We hope that our suggestions have given you a few ideas that work for your frightened feline. With your patience, love, and comfort, your kitty will go back to their normal routine soon.
Featured Image Credit: Pixel-Shot, shutterstock