With the arrival of summer and popular celebrations such as the festival of San Juan, firecrackers fill the streets with noise. Despite the fun, this moment is one of the most feared by the pet parents, since in general, most dogs and cats become nervous when faced with strong sound stimuli. Reactions can range from excessive panting and restlessness to flight behaviors that put their physical integrity at risk.
The reactions of our dog or cat can range from excessive panting and restlessness, to flight behaviors that put their physical integrity at risk.
What’s a dog to do who’s afraid of firecrackers and fireworks? One of the frequent reactions is excessive and fast breathing. In addition to panting, dogs can be restless, for example moving around the house from one place to another. If we see that he yawns, we might think that he is bored, but in reality it could also be another way of expressing his concern. Some also react to sound stimulation by barking or sobbing. It can also happen that they hardly react to our call and remain stopped due to the blockage caused by the noise. Finally, another of the typical reactions could be their desire to flee at all costs, which they can feel immediately when they hear any noise.
Cats also have a particular way of reacting to these strong sound stimuli. Do not be surprised that, after the firecracker, the cat also chooses to flee quickly. It is one of the ways they have to express their fear. In addition to those behaviors, they will also try to hide. Any corner of the house can serve as a hiding place, such as climbing on a shelf, staying under our bed or between the curtains, and staying there until they feel safe to leave. On the other hand, cats can also react in the opposite way, in tension, remaining motionless, blocked or even staring blankly.
“During its first months of life, we can propose a correct process of habituation to different auditory stimuli, progressively and in intensities manageable by our dog or cat”, in any case, under the supervision of a professional, explains Salvador. “Getting them used to all kinds of situations or stimuli from a very young age will help them better face any adversity they encounter as an adult,” says Laia Salvador, an expert in feline behavior and dog educator.
During socialization it is advisable to accustom the puppies to various auditory stimuli so that they normalize them, although we must do it progressively, in a supervised manner, and with an intensity that they can manage.
Faced with the imminent arrival of San Juan, some people choose to temporarily move with their dogs or cats to a friend or relative’s house, away from the sounds of firecrackers. But not everyone can do it and, furthermore, we can rarely escape the pyrotechnics when it is one of the characteristics of such a massive celebration. What we do need to know is that, although there are no magic formulas, we can implement some measures to limit that fear.
What should we do and what not before loud sounds
“That our dog or cat has a rest and tranquility area at home can help him find calm in case he is surprised by the sound of firecrackers or firecrackers,” advises the expert in feline behavior and dog educator, Laia Salvador. We can accommodate a quiet place, such as the bathroom, since it is usually in an area further away from the noise, with relaxing music in the background to cover up the noise that comes from outside. In that space we will leave his bed and also his favorite toy. The ideal is to do this routine beyond San Juan so that it perceives it as something normal and does not associate it with something negative.
Our behavior is key for them to overcome their fear of these noises. You have to convey security, without giving importance to the situation. “Our emotional example will be essential to transmit calm: if a firecracker sounds and he seems surprised, concerned or scared, we must remain neutral, acting normally, as if we had not heard it. We should not pay any attention to their reactions of surprise or fear”, explains Salvador. In addition, it is always better that we spend as much time as possible at home and not leave them alone, you are their greatest example, accompany them, stay calm and be their source of security.
In the case of cats that have access to the outside, moving freely around the terrace or neighboring gardens in search of adventures, we must be especially careful in order to avoid accidents. Therefore, doors and windows must be closed. In addition, on days when we know there will be firecrackers, it is advisable to have the kittens controlled inside the house and with a well-conditioned security area, be it a room or a hiding place.
If our dog or cat is in an emotional state of fear, it can act in different ways: isolate itself, search for us or block itself. If he isolates himself, either in the area that we have provided or that he has found himself (some get under the bed or hide in a corner of the house), we must never remove him from there. You have to leave him alone until he decides to leave. On the other hand, if he blocks himself and looks for us as a refuge, we should not calm him down or comfort him with caresses and kind words, nor give him rewards when he is afraid. It is counterproductive since we would reinforce that behavior.
Then, once all the noise is over, we can help our dog or cat by providing physical and mental activity. Thanks to exercise we can help you release tension and balance yourself emotionally.
If he looks for a hiding place at home and decides to stay there, we must leave him to his own devices until he decides to leave. Do not force him to leave that safe place for him
In extreme situations, it is advisable to always go to the vet so that they can help us. However, we shouldn’t use medications without a veterinarian’s recommendation because any drug—both human and veterinary—could cause an unwanted problem for your dog or cat, such as toxicity or adverse effects from improper dosage. This measure, far from helping you, can cause you a serious problem.
It is also possible that it surprises us and that a dog or cat that has never been nervous does so then. Showing an aversion to firecrackers when he hasn’t done so before is something that could happen. In any case, if we live with a puppy it is important to get him used to this stimulus with caution, this way it will be easier for us to avoid having a bad time in the future.
If this year during the festival of San Juan you notice that your dog or your cat continue to react adversely to firecrackers, fireworks and loud sounds, it is recommended that, once these dates have passed, you put yourself in the hands of a professional confidence to start a desensitization process. In this way, the dog or cat will be prepared not to have a bad time when there are other parties in which the pyrotechnic noise has so much prominence. You will both win by feeling safe and happy.
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