To dogs, cats, and other animals, New Year’s Eve can seem more like World War III than a joyous celebration. The numerous fireworks displays that set the sky alight can make this night terrifying and even dangerous for animals. Many companion animals are afraid of thunderstorms, and fireworks are similar, with their loud bangs and bright flashes of light.
Dogs and cats left outside or home alone may go to extreme lengths to escape the explosions. Some end up hit by cars or killed in other ways as they flee. They may also injure themselves or others in their panic and terror—particularly if they are tied up or caged.
Wild animals are also vulnerable during fireworks displays, not only because of the high levels of stress that such displays may cause but also because fireworks that explode near them may injure or kill them. Those who are rearing their young may abandon them to starve to death in order to flee for their own lives.
Here are a few precautions that you can take to ensure the comfort and safety of your animal companions during the New Year’s Eve fireworks displays:
Never leave animals tethered or chained outside, as they can hang themselves if they leap over a fence while trying to run from the noise.
Keep cats and dogs indoors during the celebrations and, if possible, stay with them—never take them with you to watch fireworks displays!
But also make sure that they are wearing a collar or harness with an up-to-date identification tag, just in case.
To muffle the disturbing sounds, close your windows, draw the curtains, and shut the blinds. Tune the radio to a classical-music station.
Make sure your dog or cat has a safe place to hide (under the bed is fine!).
As long as your companion animals are safe, try not to fuss over them too much, as this will only make the situation seem like a bigger deal and encourage their fearful behavior. Be upbeat and cheerful to show them that all is well. Try to provide distractions, such as toys, games, activities, and yummy treats so that they can relate the scary noises and bright lights to something positive. And never punish animals for being afraid, as that will backfire and only make them more fearful.
Many dogs are able to remain calm in the face of stressful circumstances such as fireworks if they are given melatonin shortly beforehand. You can find it at your local health food store, and dogs can take between 1 and 6 mg, depending on bodyweight.
Small animals such as birds and mice get scared, too, and will benefit from having a lightweight cover draped over their living space to minimize the noise of the fireworks (but make sure they don’t overheat). Being in the dark will help to keep them calm as well.
Here’s to a safe and happy New Year’s for all!