How to help your cat cope with fireworks

Though we generally talk about dogs and their firework phobias, there is no doubt that cats can suffer too. Many will suffer in silence and it can be tricky to tell just how worried they really are.

While the Coronavirus lockdown will mean many fireworks displays will have to be cancelled this year, we will still be seeing the same (if not more) backyard fireworks displays. Therefore, we need to be as cautious as ever with our anxious kitties.

Signs that your cat is scared of fireworks

When a cat is afraid of fireworks, there are numerous signs they can display, some of which are easier to spot than others:

  • Running away from the noise and lights. Instinctively, many cats will try to flee the danger. This can be incredibly dangerous as can result in cats going missing, jumping from inappropriate heights or even being hit by a car.
  • Whether inside or outside of the home, some will try to pretend the scary bangs aren’t happening and curl tightly away, waiting for things to end.
  • Lashing out. It is not uncommon for a cat to hiss or scratch when approached if their anxiety is running high. This shouldn’t be perceived as ‘bad behaviour’, they simply don’t know how to cope with their nervous energy.
  • Urinating and defecating outside of their tray. Whether they are too scared to come out of the room in which they are hiding or simply don’t feel comfortable enough to go to their tray, accidents can happen during and after fireworks displays.

How can I help my cat?

Luckily, there is plenty that can be done to help out those cats who shows signs of being fearful.

  • As with dogs, Desensitization Programmes can help to prevent, improve and even ‘cure’ some noise phobias. This method takes time and should not be started a day or two before fireworks season. In the ideal world, we would play tapes or videos of loud noises such as fireworks, car horns, lorries, babies crying etc. from kitten-hood regularly. This will mean that the noises are perceived as a normal part of life and a phobia is never able to develop.
  • Consider some help from your vet. There are Calming Medicines available which can help to take the edge off. Most require a health check before they can be prescribed.
  • Keep cats inside and make your home their ‘Safe Space’. Doors and windows must be firmly closed to prevent the cat from bolting. Have them away from windows and provide a cosy bed with lots of blankets under which they can hide.
  • Feline Pheromones are never a bad idea. Having a diffuser plug-in (such as a Feliway) in the room in which the cat likes to relax in is a worthwhile investment.
  • Create a den or safe space for your cat in a certain area of the house, which can be used all year round. A box or igloo den with one entrance and exit is ideal. This should provide them with a cosy, safe and quiet place to go to if they're scared or nervous.

For those with severe phobias, it may be worth consulting a local Feline Behaviorist who can be recommended by your local vet.