It’s that time of year again; cosying around a bonfire, gazing up at the bursts of colour in the night sky and waving sparklers through the air. Whether it’s Bonfire Night, New Year’s Eve, or any other special occasion, there’s something absolutely magical about fireworks.
However, the loud noises and flashing lights can be terrifying for our cats. Luckily, there’s a few things you can do to try and minimise their stress levels during these celebrations. This guide includes some of our best tips to help relax your cat this firework season.
Why are cats scared of fireworks?
Simply put, cats associate loud noises with danger. And fireworks can be very loud. That coupled with the constant flashing can set your cat off into a panic.
Every single year, out-of-hours vets are inundated with pets who have been spooked by loud bangs and injured themselves. We recommend keeping your emergency vet’s number to hand, just in case. Or, if you’re a YuMOVE subscriber, you can take advantage of free 24/7 access to an online vet courtesy of PawSquad.
How to prepare your cat for fireworks
Try to get them used to loud noises
Most cats are very sensitive to sound. In the build-up to fireworks, try to desensitise them to the loud bangs. You could do this by playing fireworks on your TV so they become familiar with it, or by playing music regularly in the house.
Make sure their microchip is up to date
Microchipping is especially important during firework season, as cats are likely to make a run for it when they’re spooked. Double-check that all their microchip details are correct before the big night. This way, if they do end up going missing, they can be easily returned to you.
You should also consider an easy-release collar with an engraved tag. This way, they can easily be identified when out and about. If your cat doesn’t normally wear one, introduce this a few weeks in advance.
Try a natural calming aid
Supplements can really help to relax your cat during firework season (and all year round!) Our YuCALM range helps to promote calmness and increases happiness. We recommend introducing the supplement in advance – ideally a few weeks before the event. This way, your feline friend can have the best chance of staying calmer when the fireworks go off.
How to tell if your cat is stressed due to fireworks
Sometimes it can be difficult to identify the signs of stress in cats. But here a few of the tell-tale signs:
- Hiding or running away
- Dilated pupils
- Hissing, grumbling or loud vocalisations
- Arching their back
- Withdrawing from you
- Being extra clingy
- Pinning their ears back
- Moving slowly and low to the ground
A sudden change in behaviour is the biggest sign your cat is stressed out. If they’re normally friendly and affectionate, but now they’re cowering from you, or if they usually keep themselves to themselves but are now being super needy, then they’re probably afraid.
What to do on the night
Keep your cat indoors
This one goes without saying. You should never let your cat outside when there are fireworks going off. Even if you’re not having fireworks yourself. Keeping them indoors will stop them being caught out if fireworks do suddenly start.
Our top tip: If your cat is normally an outdoors cat, but you’re keeping them inside for the night, make sure to provide an indoor litter tray in a convenient location. If your cat is feeling anxious, they may avoid going to the toilet completely. But it’s best to give them the option!
Escape-proof your house
Keep all external doors closed and block off any cat flaps to stop your cat escaping. But be sure to leave some internal doors open so your cat doesn’t feel trapped in one space. This could make things worse if your cat feels like they can’t move.
Don’t just close your windows, but close the curtains or blinds, too. It’s not just the loud noises that can upset your cat, but the flashing can bother them as well.
Our top tip: You might be surprised to know that cats can squeeze into extremely tight spots. So, block off any dangerous or inappropriate areas of the house.
Create a safe place
A cat’s natural instinct tells them to run away when they’re scared. If your cat has a favourite spot – like in their bed, behind the sofa or under a table – encourage them to settle there. Make the space appealing with blankets, treats and toys. A cardboard box will also help them feel safe thanks to its tall sides.
You should introduce this space a few days before you expect fireworks to begin. This way, your pet knows it’s a place where they relax, de-stress and just generally be safe. Giving them a choice of different hiding spots will help to keep them relaxed.
Our top tip: A lot of cats like to be up high (this way they can have a bird's-eye view of everything going on). Try placing a box on top of a sturdy cupboard or shelf to help them feel relaxed. If your cat is in their senior years, add some steps up to the higher places so they don’t have to strain their joints.
Distract your cat
Tactical distractions can sometimes work wonders! Whether it’s playing with their favourite toy, giving them a yummy treat, brushing them (if they like that), or some background noise can take your cat’s mind off the fireworks outside.
Our top tip: We recommend playing some music, or putting on the radio or TV. One of the biggest reasons why cats hate fireworks is because of the loud noises. These sudden bangs can be diluted with music or the TV. Calm music – like classical or jazz – acts as a natural calming aid for nervous pets.
Keep calm and carry on
Cats are extremely perceptive. They will notice when you’re acting oddly. If you’re upset, frightened or stressed, your cat is likely to pick up on it. If they see that the fireworks don’t bother you, it may influence their behaviour and help to reduce their stress. Following your cat around or being too affectionate can cause them to become confused and might add to their nerves if it’s not something they’re used to.
Don’t interact with your cat or pick them up if they’re distressed. When they’re upset, cats can suddenly act aggressively. They also take a long time to calm down. Try to wait until the morning before interacting with them again.
Our top tip: Don’t leave them alone in the house. And make sure they know that you’re around. Just knowing you’re in the house will give them some comfort.
Surprisingly, some cats actually enjoy sitting in a window watching the fireworks go off. If this sounds like your cat, then we hope you have a lovely time together this Bonfire Night!
Does your cat get stressed out during stormy weather? Learn more about how to help here.