Your kitty has super sensitive hearing! Although their hearing range is similar to humans at the low end of the scale, they can hear much higher frequencies - which helps them to hear all the small rustles around bushes and detect the mouse that is trying to run for cover! So, during firework celebrations, with their random loud bangs and hissing noises, you will find that your feline friend finds these sounds very frightening - even if they are at a distance.
Signs that your cat is scared
Firework celebrations generally occur at the same time every year, so you will have plenty of time to prepare your kitty for the noises that will happen. But there will often be random firework displays that you will not expect and, due to their super sensitive hearing, your cat may well hear these even if you don't.
Signs to look out for are:
- They may run away or hide more than usual. Cats do like to have safe places to retreat to, but if you find that your furry friend is disappearing more than usual, it may be because they are scared. It's important that you leave your cat in their safe place and let them come out on their own terms. If they are there for a while, make sure that their food and drink bowls are accessible - they may appear for a quick snack and retreat back into their hiding place until they feel it is safe to emerge.
- Their toilet habits may change. If your cat is frightened, they may want to pee or poop indoors so make sure they have access to their litter tray - but remember not to put it too close to their food - they don't like to eat in their toilet!
- Are they over-grooming? If you spot that your cat is grooming themselves excessively, this could be because they are feeling anxious. Over-grooming can cause hair thinning, balding or even damage to the skin and sore areas.
- Less interaction. Is your cat reluctant to join in with regular playtime with you or your family? This may be because they are aware of distant noises that scare them, and they may just need a bit of quiet time in their favourite hiding spot.
- Body language. Being able to 'Speak Cat' is essential if you are to know how your cat is feeling. An arched back, flat ears, and backward facing whiskers are among the signs that your cat is scared and feeling anxious.
How to help your cat stay serene through fireworks celebrations
Keep your cat indoors, especially after dark, when you know that fireworks celebrations are due. If they get scared when they are outdoors they may bolt in any direction trying to find a safe place to hide, but could get disoriented and get lost. In addition:
Keep your kitty secure & consider resources
- Ensure their microchip is up to date - reflecting your current contact details, just in case they get lost. Depending on the pet microchip registry your pet is enrolled with, you may be able to update the record online or via the phone.
- When indoors, lock all cat flaps, windows and doors so that they cannot escape but do not restrict them to one room as they may feel cornered and get more anxious. Give them the freedom to roam around the house to find their own safe space.
- If they normally do their toileting outside, make sure you have a litter tray indoors available for them a few days before the celebrations are due to start.
- If your cat is not used to being shut in your house, practise calling them in before the expected fireworks, rewarding them when they come to you and have the litter tray prepared for them but never admonish them if they do not come to you when you call - this will only make things worse and they will be frightened to come to you in the future.
Create a calm environment
- Make sure they have clear access to their favourite safe place. If they don't already have one, create one for them. A cardboard box with their favourite blanket is always a favourite for cats!
- If you are creating a new safe haven for them, make sure you prepare this in advance of the firework celebrations so that your cat can get used to it but give them the freedom to choose their favourite spot - cats like to make their own choices!
- During the fireworks celebrations, close all curtains to block out the effect of the flashes of light, and muffle the sounds.
- Play music or turn on the radio/TV to distract from the noises outside. Music can have a soothing effect on cats and although cat-specific music is available, cats do seem to like classical music, so curling up on the sofa listening to your favourite tune could help your kitty feel less stressed during firework celebrations.
- FELIWAY Optimum can help to create a reassuring environment for cats. Ideally, plug the diffuser in at least a few days before the expected fireworks, in the room where your cat spends most of their time. The diffuser should be left switched on during this time.
Be a supportive friend
- Don't try and remove them from a hiding place, unless it is unsafe for them. Be patient and wait for them to emerge when they feel comfortable enough to do so.
- If they come to you for attention, make sure to interact the way they want - they may not want to be picked up, but are happy just to be close to you. Let them call the shots. Stroking them in their favourite spot may just be what they need to keep them calm.
- If your cat has been extremely stressed during previous fireworks celebrations, speak to your vet as they can help with ways to support your cat this year. Do this well in advance of the celebrations so that you can be prepared for the big event.
- When fireworks displays are close together like Halloween and Bonfire Night, you may want to try to desensitise your cat to the sound of fireworks. Playing a recording of fireworks several weeks before the fireworks season may help. Once your cat seems to tolerate the sounds at low volume, you can gradually increase the volume, so that when the real event happens, they will be used to the noise.
Surprisingly, curiosity may get the better of your kitty and you may find them sitting on a windowsill watching the fireworks with interest - but in case they change their mind, make sure they have their safe place to retreat to if they choose!