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In Memory of Heli Dungler

Gray stray-cat on little roof with snow

New Year's Eve: Minimising your Pet's stress

2.12.2019

A guide for pet owners

Firecrackers, rockets, sparklers – for many people, they’re all part of the New Year’s Eve fun. For animals though, loud noises and flashes of light cause considerable stress. They often react with panic, sometimes showing physical symptoms such as diarrhoea. However, there are many simple measures we can take to calm our pet's nerves on New Year’s Eve.

Dogs

  • Go walkies: Dogs must be given the opportunity to relieve themselves. It’s best if you walk your dog at a time when there aren’t many fireworks going off. However, the temperament of your particular dog will help you decide when the last walk of the day should be. A fearless dog can venture out later in the day, while for a nervous one the last walk of the day might be at noon. In any case, you should keep your dog on a leash at all times, so it can’t run away if it is startled by a firework.
  • In the home: When there are fireworks going off, dogs should be kept indoors preferably in a distant room where very little noise can penetrate To calm your pet, you should close the curtains, blinds or shutters, so the flashes of light can’t be seen indoors. Soothing music played at a moderate volume can also dampen the noise of fireworks and help to calm the nerves of your four-legged friend. The room should remain well-lit.
  • Anti-stress shirts: According to the manufacturer, so-called 'Thundershirts' have a calming effect on animals. When worn by a dog, the shirts are designed to provide a gentle, constant pressure on the chest, which helps to reduce anxiety.
  • Desensitisation measures: Experiences of dog owners show that it can be useful to get your pet used to the typical noises weeks before the fireworks. CDs with fireworks noises or firework noises on online channels such as Youtube can be played. In connection with something positive like treats and/or games, the fireworks sound increasingly loses its terror for the dog.
  • In case of stress: If your dog shows signs of stress despite all your preventative measures, you should allow it to seek out a safe place in the home, no matter how odd it may seem to you – such as in the bathroom, behind the sofa or under the bed. Wherever your animal wants to be, as a responsible owner you should stay with it all the time and provide affectionate support. Your presence will have a calming effect, and soothing words and stroking may also help if your dog responds to them.
  • Pheromones: Pheromones are messenger substances. They are excreted by one animal and absorbed by another. Pheromones trigger different reactions in the animals which absorb them, some pheromones have a very relaxing and calming effect. Whether and which pheromones are used should be decided by the veterinarian.
  • Alternative medicine: With animals that are prone to extreme anxiety, Bach flowers, homoeopathy, aromatherapy, herbs and acupuncture have a proven track record. Bach flowers, herbs, etc. may need longer to take effect, so owners should start the treatment in advance. If you’re thinking of helping your dog using medicines, herbs, etc., then only do so in consultation with a vet or trusted alternative practitioner.

Cats 

  • Preventative measures: All owners are strongly advised to have their cats microchipped. That way, if your cat manages to escape and run away despite all your precautions, there’s a better chance that you will be reunited thanks to the microchip. Even after the fireworks have passed their peak, your cat should stay indoors: experience shows that occasional fire crackers, rockets and flares can be set off well into the early hours of the morning. If there is a cat flap, it must be kept closed. To be on the safe side, all windows should be closed and you should close the curtains.
  • In the home: Cats must have access to as many hiding places as possible. This means you should open doors to rooms that your cat wouldn’t normally have access to. This may include the bedroom, for instance, which could provide a hiding place in an open wardrobe.
  • Calming music: Gentle, relaxing music has a soothing effect on cats. The best thing to do is to try out which music your cat reacts to in a relaxed way, (independently of any fireworks festivities) and to play it more often throughout the year.
  • Give variety: Cat owners should keep their animals in a good mood. You usually know which game your house tiger loves. The game may not be forced on the cat, however.
  • Pheromones: Similar to dogs, some pheromones also have a calming effect on cats.
  • In case of stress: A cat showing signs of stress mustn’t be left alone. A human presence can be very comforting at this nerve-racking time. However, exaggerated emotional attention may not be helpful, even if it’s well-intentioned. If your feline friend doesn’t want to be petted to keep it calm, you should accept this. Talking to your cat too much can also be counterproductive. And as a caring owner, you shouldn’t yell at your stressed cat if it pees on the floor instead of the litter box.

Small mammals – rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, etc.

Outdoor keeping: Animals that are usually kept outdoors all year should be brought into the home or some other quiet, enclosed space such as the garden shed on New Year’s Eve. If this isn’t possible, the cages must be arranged so that the bangs and flashes don’t frighten the animals. Placing thick blankets over the enclosure can be very helpful – but make sure there’s enough ventilation.

Housing: Guinea pigs, rabbits, etc. are very susceptible to stress. This means it’s even more important to keep the animals in a very quiet room during the fireworks. Noise insulation should be provided by blankets placed over the cages. Closing the curtains will also protect them from the frightening flashes. Give them an extra layer of bedding so they can hide more easily from any disturbance.

Birds

Precautions: Bangs and flashes of light make birds panic. Their flight instinct will cause them to flutter about frantically in their cage, which puts them at risk of serious injury. The most calming environment for our feathered friends is a quiet room with closed curtains, blinds or shutters. The better the windows are covered, the less the birds will be troubled by the flashes of fireworks. Gentle music will also help to calm them.

Our Tip

We can give our pets the best possible New Year’s Eve by spending this time with them in familiar and peaceful surroundings.