With the Fourth of July midweek this year, your neighbors are likely to pop off fireworks before, during and after the holiday. That can mean a stressful week for people with noise-phobic pets.
Dogs and cats that are afraid of fireworks will express their fear in different ways. Cats may run and hide under beds or in closets, and not be seen out and about for days. Out of sight means out of mind for most feline pet parents who mistakenly think their cats are fine and just somewhere in the house. If they are hiding, they are stressed.
Dogs, on the other hand, show stress by panting, pacing, trembling, vocalizing, panicking, destroying things, and even through uncontrolled urinating and defecating. It can be difficult for a dog to settle down once he or she gets worked up.
Several of my Fourth of July holidays have been miserable for my dogs. The first incident occurred when a few kids set off fireworks at my front door. My golden retriever had been lying against the front door at the time, and the pop-pop-pop frightened him so badly, he panicked for hours (he had never been afraid of fireworks before then). He never laid at the front door again, and it took two months before he would potty outside without me standing guard.
The second experience was with my Red Heeler mix, Maggie. While walking around the block midday on the Fourth of July, a car passed us, and a young man leaned out the window and shot a bottle rocket at us. Thankfully, it missed both of us, but I am pretty sure we both wet ourselves from the fear of being hit. It took months for her to enjoy our daily walks again.
If your pets panic over fireworks, don't leave them home alone. For both dogs and cats, create a safe space inside the house with music or white noise that drowns out the fireworks and keeps them calm. (Our family tradition is to play patriotic action movies all evening.)
Dogs also can wear Thundershirts and Anxiety Wraps to ease their frayed nerves. There are prescription anxiety medications you can get from your veterinarian and even over-the-counter products, like Rescue Remedy that can be added to their water. The challenge is to find the right combination of stress-reducing strategies that keep your pets calm and relaxed, like walking your dog early in the morning since people rarely play with fireworks that early.
If left in an anxious state, both dogs and cats can escape out an open door. Make sure your pets have an ID tag and a microchip this holiday, so they can be returned to you when found. (Animal shelters often report an increase in lost pets after the Fourth of July.)
So, if you have a noise-phobic dog or cat, find ways to keep your dogs and cats safe and stress-free over the holiday.
Recently, a reader asked you how to relax her cat, so that she could clip the cat's nails. My sister has had many cats over the past 30 years. She has always waited until the cats finished eating and then cut their nails. She has said that they are more lethargic after eating and resisted less. It may be worth a try before medicating. -- Liz, Newington, CT
I like your sister. She is cunning -- and correct; a full belly makes cats a little less nimble, and so the timing might be perfect for semi-resistant cats. Some cats though, will find a way to escape a nail trim no matter what you do.
Dear readers, please let me know some of the cunning ways you trick your cat into a nail trim.
In response to your column on cat toys, both of my cats go nuts over small paper balls made from shopping receipts or old lottery tickets. As soon as I take the receipt out of the bag, they run to me and anxiously wait for me to crumple it into a ball and toss it across the room. The only downfall is getting them all picked up before I vacuum. -- William, Baldwin, NY
When it comes to cats, they mostly love things that don't cost money, like crumpled paper to chase, paper bags to play in, and boxes to hide in. Just pushing stuff off countertops is fun for most cats. They just have a way of making almost anything fun.
(Cathy M. Rosenthal is a longtime animal advocate, author, columnist and pet expert who has more than 25 years in the animal welfare field. Send your pet questions, stories and tips to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your name, city, and state. You can follow her @cathymrosenthal.)