The summer brings lots of cherished festivities—swimming, picnics, barbecues and, unfortunately, fireworks. Every year, pet parents forget about the impact of fireworks until they see a little fuzzball shivering under the couch. People might be fascinated by the colorful displays, but to a cat, fireworks are downright terrifying.
Let this be the year when your cat can conquer their anxiety. Prepare for the Fourth of July and other summertime holidays with tips that will give your cat some peace of mind.
Help your kitty get used to the noise
Prepare for the fireworks several weeks before the holiday arrives. The sudden flashes and loud booms trigger anxiety because they’re not part of your cat’s normal routine. Desensitization therapy can help your cat get used to this extra stimuli. When cats are regularly exposed to fireworks, they learn that fireworks don’t pose a threat. Desensitization is an effective way to reduce their stress and anxiety.
This doesn’t mean you should set off fireworks every day! Gradually expose your cat to fireworks by playing audio recordings of fireworks in the background. Set the volume low, then slowly turn it up as your kitty gets more comfortable. You could also try putting a video of fireworks on the TV screen. The goal is to help your cat stay calm when the real fireworks show up.
Create a safe hiding spot
Cats need a safe space they can run to during firework displays. Make sure your feline friend has easy access to their usual spot, whether that’s a closet, high bookshelf or under the bed. Ask guests to steer clear of your kitty’s hiding spot to minimize noise and unwanted attention. Stock the safe space with bedding, food bowls, toys and a litter box so your cat can stay there as long as they want.
Prepare ahead of time by applying a pheromone spray to your cat’s favorite hiding spots. These synthetic pheromones mimic the scent of a nursing mother cat and have been known to calm down anxious kitties. You might also consider giving your cat a special calming collar that will release pheromones throughout the evening.
While each cat has their favorite spot, it’s best to have options. Help out your cat by identifying at least one safe space in every room. Create an easy path to high perches, dark corners and partially concealed boxes. This will satisfy your cat’s natural instinct to hide, rather than making them feel trapped out in the open.
Mask the sight and sound of fireworks
Do your best to conceal the presence of fireworks. Cats can still notice what’s happening outside, but at least the stimuli will be less severe. One thing you can do is shut the blinds to dim the flashing colors. You could even hang up thick curtains that are designed to block out light. Try to divert your cat’s attention away from the windows with a special treat or exciting new toy.
The loud boom of fireworks will startle your kitty the most. Close all the windows and doors to limit outside sounds. Play some music or white noise in the background to mask the sound of fireworks when they sizzle in the sky. Classical music is particularly effective at calming anxious cats. Alternatively, you could leave the TV on all night, since cats are already used to this sound.
Prevent your cat from escaping the home
Outdoor cats should come inside during firework displays. Cats flee when they’re frightened, and they might wander too far away from home. In fact, animal shelters experience the highest rate of lost cats shortly after the Fourth of July and other summertime holidays. Keep cats under your watchful eye to stop them from getting lost.
Determined cats have been known to escape in an attempt to get away from the fireworks. They might dart out the front door if guests don’t close it fast enough. Kitties can also scratch holes in window screens or jump to a neighboring balcony. Ask guests to be mindful of your cat and keep windows closed at all times. Seal off the cat flap if you have one, too.
The summer holidays are trying times for anxious kitties. Following these steps will set up your cat for a relatively stress-free evening. Give cats the space they need to cope with this disruption to their usual routine. Your feline friend might disappear for a few hours, but rest assured they’ll emerge for cuddles when they’re good and ready!