Fireworks can affect your animals in many ways as they have very highly attuned senses! What is not often considered is how the stress of big bangs can subsequently affect your cats’ immune system.
Recognising Signs of AnxietyJust like humans, cats can get stressed and anxious, which can change their behaviour and result in them being deeply unhappy in your home. Anxiety can then result in the immune system working overtime to overcome an increase in adrenalin. This can lead to illness – the main illnesses we worry about where stress is involved are Herpes flare ups and FIP mutation.
Fireworks and Cats – Why we are up in arms!
Lighting up the sky on Diwali, Guy Fawkes and New Years Eve is a popular way to celebrate and provides a wondrous spectacle for humans, but while it may be enjoyable and magical for us, it is hellish for our four-legged friends and more so than we realise.
Fireworks are one of the leading causes of lost or stray animals over the holiday season (thousands of cats and dogs are picked up or surrendered to local welfare in KwaZulu Natal alone, annually as a result of these spectacles), and can be a big cause of health issues as the effects of just a few hours can stay with them for months or even years.
The main problem with fireworks is that our animals are highly attuned to their environments, routine and everyday noise. Your cat’s senses are very keen, and are designed to help him operate in his environment. From high-powered ears to a sensitive nose, your cat can sense things in ways that humans cannot.
While cats hear sounds about as low as humans, they can hear much higher pitches than we can, and their range goes even above that of dogs. Big bangs, loud noises, a barrage of fireworks screaming and banging through the night sky is unusual for them and because they can hear so much better than we can, it is very LOUD. Most cats will go into a high adrenaline state and either flee, fight or hide. Some become paralised by their fear. They can also hear noises at around five times the distance to what a human can!
Imagine that your hearing was amplified four times over, that you could hear so well that you could hear electrical currents. Can you imagine how noisy your world would be? A cats hearing IS amplified four times greater than ours. If fireworks are loud to you, imagine the trauma they experience!
It’s only a few hours. What’s the harm?
Cats are highly sensitive animals and the preparation for getting them ready to cope with the few hours of major noise stress should start weeks prior! After the war zone ceases and the world goes quiet again, cats will hold onto negative energy, their immune systems have been kicked into overdrive to protect them from “expected danger” and they may experience negative feelings, injury, stress and/or trauma that will lead to other issues long term.
Just like a human, close up loud bangs even just ONE can cause inner ear damage which can affect your cats hearing and balance.
How to prepare… There are people out there who will set off fireworks regardless of pleas from animal lovers and welfare!
There are a number of different treatments available to prepare your animals for this treacherous night!
Feliway MultiCat Diffusers can be ordered from your vet or local vet store. They work by emitting happy pheromones to create a sense of calm, and contentment in the environment. You will need to start with the Feliway at least 1 month prior to the expected holiday and purchase refills in advance so that when it runs out, you can replace it immediately. It starts to work in around 1 – 4 weeks but you will notice a marked difference in behaviour when it runs out so you need to have refills on hand.
The small plug-in diffuser starts to work after seven days and is recommended by veterinarians nationwide as a solution to cat anxiety and conflict in your home.
Rescue Remedy, and other Bach Flower Remedies can be helpful short and long term – you will need to begin administering it to your animals about a week prior to the holiday. Rescue is a dilution of five flower remedies – Star of Bethlehem, Rock Rose, Cherry Plum, Impatiens and Clematis – that combine to create a gentle, alcohol-free food additive that will soothe your cat’s anxieties after each meal. These products are especially useful during holidays to help your pets when they are spooked by the fireworks which can cause major anxiety in cats and dogs. Adding a few drops to the cats drinking water or rubbing it on the inside of the ear will help considerably – every 2 hours on bad nights!
Anxitane (Relicalm), Calm Eze and other remedies can also help but are not effective if they aren’t used a few days prior to build up to the event. They don’t just work overnight. So you need to once again prepare and start building up the L-Theanine ingredient in the products so that it can be effective.
Pet Prozac, Clomicalm, and other anti-anxiety medication will also need to be started earlier on so that the cat’s system can adjust to the medication – much like human anti-anxiety medications, they may take a few days or even up to a few weeks of regular dosing to work but once they do, they can provide a huge amount of stress relief and help with behavioural problems resulting from fireworks and other anxieties that may arise.
Cannibis Oil for Pets is a natural way to build up your pet’s immune system as well as strengthen their resolve against triggers for anxiety, fear and aggression. You can buy our favourite strain at www.sarahjanefarrell.com online.
Crating – Using a soft crate in a dark, safe area, with food, litter box and appropriate bedding, covered with a blanket, will help skitty cats that tend to FLEE feel safe and secure. Those that FREAK out and want closeness with their human companions may not like this option but you can start crate training your pets from kittenhood so if you need to use this option to keep them confined and safe for a few hours, they are comfortable with it. Use in conjunction with appropriate calming meds. We like to use the Collapsible Soft Crates from Cosmic Pets – there are multiple stockists nationwide.
Avoid stimulants like Cat Nip or Valerian that have a calming effect but may also rouse your cat – this can BACKFIRE and have the opposite effect and instead of calming your cat, will result in them being over-sensitive and potentially hyperactive or aggressive. They also may associate their favourite herbs with the negative experience so rather keep these as a treat for positive reinforcement and sensory play.
Keep your animals inside, confined to a safe room where they cannot escape, with food, water, toys, and bedding. They will need things to scratch as this helps them to release tension. Distracting them with toys and hyping them up may not be wise during this time. The idea is to keep them calm.
MICROCHIP YOUR ANIMALS
Kioko kittens are microchipped so that in the event your cat goes missing or escapes its secured home or enclosure for any reason, anyone will be able to take the cat to the vet to be scanned to pick up both our and the owner’s details and contact them. If you are worried about your houdini cat, you can also look at GPS tracker collars but please do not take the chance – KEEP YOUR ANIMALS SAFE INDOORS! At least if they manage to escape you would have made arrangements.
TAKE RECENT PICTURES OF YOUR ANIMALS
Keep recent pictures and videos of your cats showing distinguishing markings, temperament, behaviour, face and body. If he goes missing, you will be able to have pictures on hand immediately to circulate on social media or to your neighbours!
Don’t own animals if you intend to participate in this celebratory practice. It is not something any animal lover should support or partake in. If your neighbours are letting off fireworks in residential areas, phone the police and your local security company!
What if your animal shows symptoms of anxiety and trauma after the event?
Firstly, visit your vet and talk to them about the symptoms you are experiencing. These may be a range of things such as a change in behaviour, development of PICA (eating strange things), vomiting or signs of IBS, hiding, acting skittish when generally very confident, spooking very easily (out of character), over grooming and self-mutilation, not using the litter box or using it inappropriately, coming down with illnesses often (immune system is failing due to stress), lethargic (doesn’t want to play anymore), separation anxiety develops.
Once you have discussed a plan with your vet, you can also look at contacting animal behaviourists and communicators that deal specifically with trauma in animals. We like to use the services of the amazing Sarah-Jane Farrell of www.sarahjanefarrell.com who specialises in healing trauma and managing behaviour problems.
BE SAFE! PREPARE NOW! xoxo