Pet safety on bonfire night

Remember, remember the fifth of November... Bonfire night and dogs don’t always mix well. Fireworks and sparklers can cause distress for pets. Here’s how to make bonfire night less stressful for your pet.

Updated 02 November 2020  | 4 min read

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Key points

During the day

  • Prepare any hiding places or dens for indoor animals. Relocate outdoor hutches or pens inside or move to face the other direction
  • Walk your animals before nightfall
  • Act as normal as you possibly can and try to maintain your pet’s usual routine to avoid unnecessary stress
  • Give outdoor animals more bedding
  • Purchase any last-minute calming products

During the night

  • Close all windows, doors, and curtains
  • Keep your pet entertained with toys
  • Keep your pet distracted with music and TV
  • Comfort them / don’t leave them alone unless they run to a secure hiding place
  • Cover outdoor animal hutches

Bonfire night brings with it a whole host of sounds and sights that can overwhelm our pets: crowds, fireworks, sparklers, lights, etc.

Despite the chaos, there’s a few things you can do to keep your indoor and outdoor pets safe and happy during this celebration.

The RSPCA found that around 45% of dogs exhibit clear signs of fear and distress when they hear fireworks outside. It’s our responsibility as pet owners to help keep our animals calm and happy when events like this occur.

Indoor animals

Dogs

Dogs have better hearing than humans, so they can hear sounds and frequencies more clearly and from further away. This means that the sound of fireworks can appear closer and more frightening for them, so they may believe they’re in danger.

There are a number of measures you can take to keep your dog happy calm while the fireworks are popping outside:

  • Keep them inside - if your dog is partial to an evening walk, they might have to skip it on bonfire night and perhaps even the days leading up to it. Take your dog out for their walk during the day, and if they need to go to the toilet again, go with them into the garden so they feel protected
  • Close windows - keep windows, doors, and curtains closed to muffle both the sound and sight of fireworks
  • Use other sounds as a distraction - turn up the television (while watching a calm and non-violent programme or film) so that your dog will pay more attention to that noise rather than any nearby bangs. Some owners also play relaxing classical music around their dog to distract them from the fireworks
  • Use toys as a distraction- keeping your dog stimulated is a good distraction from fear. Give them free rein of their toy box, or play with them, so they remain focused on the fun they’re having instead of the noises outside
  • Create a space - dogs like to escape to a quiet spot when they feel frightened or threatened, so setting up a ‘doggy den’ in your house will allow them to take refuge if it gets too overwhelming. To start try gathering blankets, bedding, toys, food and water
  • Don’t force your dog - if your dog runs into a hiding place, don’t try to force them out. They’ll probably feel better having more control
  • Calming products - you can purchase a number of products online to help reduce your pet’s anxiety stress, like sprays, oils, wipes, anxiety vests and scent diffusers
  • Act normally - dogs pick up on changes in behaviour, so if you start acting nervously, they’ll mimic your emotions. Keep calm and happy, as you normally would

Cats

Cats can be both indoor and outdoor pets, free to roam around the living room as much as the neighbourhood. This can be dangerous during bonfire night, as scared cats outdoors may run away.

  • Keep them inside - like dogs, you should keep your cat indoors on bonfire night so that you don’t risk losing them. Hopefully, they’re toilet trained to use the litter box. If not, you can use a cat-friendly harness to keep them from running away while you let them outside to go to the toilet
  • Microchip them - if your cat does get scared and runs away, having them microchipped can help you track them down
  • Use other sounds as a distraction - similar to dogs, cats have impeccable hearing, so any loud bangs may frighten them and they may start scratching or damaging furniture in their stressed-out state. Use music or TV programmes to hide the sound of fireworks, but don’t play it so loudly, as they can get overwhelmed
  • Create an accessible space - your feline may choose to hide under furniture or inside cupboards . Allow them to do this, and don’t force them out if they appear happier and calmer
  • Keep everything closed - keep all windows, doors, and curtains closed to stop your kitty from staring outside and getting a fright

All of these tips apply to other pets you may keep indoors, like hamsters, guinea pigs, rabbits, rats, chinchillas, and parrots. Cover their cages, if necessary (making sure they’re still well ventilated), and provide more bedding, food and water to keep them occupied.

Outdoor animals

Little furry pets

If you keep your guinea pigs or rabbits outdoors in a hutch, consider bringing them inside for bonfire night. Rabbits, in particular, can become very startled to the point of having a heart attack, so keeping them safe during this time is vital.

  • Consider relocating them indoors - you can move your outdoor bunny inside, or to an enclosed garage or shed, to shelter them from the fireworks
  • Cover - if you can’t bring them inside, partially cover their cages with a blanket or waterproof sheet to muffle outdoor sights and sounds
  • Move hutches - you can move hutches and pens to face a different direction so that your animals can’t see the flash of a firework going off. This may help keep them calm as it doesn’t overload their senses
  • Bedding - give outdoor animals extra bedding to burrow in if they feel nervous

Farm animals

Farm animals like horses, pigs, donkeys, cows and sheep can also suffer during this celebration. Keeping your animals in their shelters will help shield them from loud noises.