Fireworks and Cats
Dogs are generally more willing and able to reveal their emotions compared to cats who maintain their emotions close to the vest. Certainly, the loud and sudden fireworks sounds will not bother many cats, but many we don’t think are bothered – are in fact afraid.
While cats generally are more subtle than dogs – a visible panic attack is possible with any combination of the following as fireworks begin: Vocalization as the cat expresses fear, even screaming; urinating and/or defecating outside the litter box; hyper-salivation; hair flies off the cat; and the cat is clearly terrorized while hiding for its life or attempts desperately to escape.
Most cats aren’t so obviously terrorized but rather the fireworks are just one more thing, the final straw, the stressor to push the cat over the edge. The result could even be a medical condition, which isn’t seen in dogs, known as idiopathic lower urinary tract disease or Pandora’s syndrome. The stress goes to the cat’s bladder or even tummy causing a cat pain, and sometimes an explanation for not hitting the litter box.
Find a YouTube for fireworks (there are dozens of choices). Begin by playing the bangs and booms at a very low level, all while distracting kitty with play or by offering high-value food or treats placed inside a toy. At first, the pet is far from the speakers (or the phone), but ever so gradually move the pet closer and simultaneously pump up the volume.
If the pet becomes concerned, you’ve gone too far too fast. Move the pet further from the speakers or your phone, and lower the volume, then gradually make it louder again.
The idea is twofold: First to help the pet feel more comfortable with the sounds of fireworks. And second to re-associate that once fearsome sounds with something enjoyable, such as special treats or a favorite toy.
This method can be a game changer, but takes a client with patience, and you can’t begin on July 3 – this will take a few weeks, at least. This method may resolve or reduce fear in some pets but not all.
Pheromones, Nutraceuticals, Probiotics
If you believe it’s possible your kitty may be fearful, most certainly speak with a veterinary professional about nutraceuticals and other products to use pre-emptively.
Zylkene: “The official calming supplement of the Fourth of July.” As their website says, helps pets to find their “zen.” Zylkene contains bovine-sourced hydrolyzed milk protein, an ingredient that has been shown to have calming properties, particularly for situational stress and to loud noises. Like great granny used to say, “If you’re upset, drink a glass of warm milk.” Great granny was right. These are tablets which can be opened and the palatable contents sprinkled on cat food. Learn more at www.happypets.com.
ANXITANE (L-Theanine) Chewable Tablets help pets keep calm and relaxed. Containing a pure synthetic form of L-Theanine, an amino acid naturally found in green tea leaves, ANXITANE Tablets are a palatable option.
Solliquin: Soft chews with L-theanine, an amino acid found naturally in green tea, stimulates production of alpha brain waves, supporting relaxation and mental awareness.
Calming Care is a probiotic from Purina ProPlan Veterinary Diets, which can be sprinkled on the cat’s food. A six-week supply of supplements contains a strain of beneficial bacteria that’s been shown to help keep cats calm during stressful situations such as separation.
Pheromones: Feliway Optimum. A copy (analog) of naturally occurring pheromones to help cats feel more comfortable in their own environments.
There are so many choices; those noted here do have published to demonstrate you likely won’t be wasting your money. By themselves, these may not resolve cats truly inconsolably phobic about fireworks; they are best used as an adjunct to other therapies and pharmaceuticals.
Anecdotal reports suggest that CBD for pets may help to relieve anxiety. There’s no published science – at least not yet. And while there’s little known regarding CBD and ability to relieve anxiety in dogs, even less is known for cats. Beware, not all CBD products are the same; the notion that all CBD products do no harm may not necessarily be true. Do consult a veterinary professional. However, depending on where you happen to live, local laws may not allow veterinary professionals to discuss these products, even though they may be readily available. Bottom line: Jury is still out.
Easy to Implement
Close windows (to lessen the sounds – remember feline hearing is far better than human hearing) and pull down the shades. Turn on relaxing music or your favorite talk radio station. A Sound Beginning, icalmpet, or other sites (including many free online) have specially produced music to relax dogs and cats.
Distract with food puzzles or better yet, the kids (or anyone) interacting with the cat in a fun way with an interactive cat toy, like feathers or fabric at the end of a fishing pole-type toy.
Be careful that a cat who is afraid or terrorized doesn’t get outside the house. Even if the cat is an indoor/outdoor cat, this is not a time to allow the cat outdoors.
A Final Word
If the cat is totally terrorized, speak to your veterinarian about a psychopharmacological solution.
The old notion about consoling a terrified pet only serves to reinforce fear is simply untrue. You can’t reinforce such a powerful emotion. In fact, some pets can be calmed when pet parents pay attention and use soothing words. Calming our pets when they are fearful can help them feel more comfortable in the moment but kindness alone rarely solves this problem. For many pets getting ahead of the issue is your best bet.