While ringing in the new year tends to be great fun for humans, it isn’t always the best experience for animals.
Here, experts from the British Veterinary Association (BVA) offer owners some tips on how to help keep their pets feel safe during New Year’s Eve celebrations.
The night of 31 December is typically a time of celebration with family and friends, an excuse to throw a party or head out to see fireworks.
Although it is often an evening of fun for us, loud music, fireworks and groups of unfamiliar people in the home can make it an unsettling and even distressing time for pets.
Dogs and cats are particularly sensitive to noise and – at 150 decibels – fireworks can be very frightening for them. The RSPCA recently estimated that 45 per cent of dogs in the UK show signs of fear when they hear fireworks.
Pets in cages and tanks, such as hamsters, ferrets, fish and birds, are also vulnerable to distress if there are loud gatherings and loud music within the home. Passive smoking can have a serious impact on the health of pets.
Signs of distress in pets
Signs of distress can differ from animal to animal. While some pets show obvious signs such as panting, drooling and attempts to escape, there are also more subtle signs that owners should be aware of, including restlessness and toileting in the house. Cats often hide while rabbits may keep very still and thump the ground with their back feet.
“Fireworks phobia in pets is an issue that vets often see around New Year’s Eve,” said BVA Junior Vice President and small animal vet Daniella Dos Santos said.
“There are various things that owners can do to help their pets, including providing your pet with a cosy, dark den to help them feel safe, closing the curtains and turning the lights off.
“Having the radio or television on low in the background can also help. If you are having a party, remember to move any small pets in cages or tanks to a quiet area of the house.”
How to keep your pets safe and fear-free
- Start creating a well-padded den for your pet to access ahead of NYE so they have a safe place to hide when fireworks or loud music start. Pheromone products, prescribed by your vet, can also be used next to your pets’ den and around the house to help calm them
- Close windows and curtains and provide background noise such as calm music to help mask the fireworks
- If you are thinking of throwing a party, move small pets such as rabbits and guinea pigs to a quiet place indoors
- If your pet is distressed, remain calm yourself – trying to reassure your pet can inadvertently reinforce the coping strategy of seeking attention, and restlessness or toileting in the house can be signs of stress, so don’t punish them
- If your pet gets severely distressed by fireworks or other noises, contact your local vet to discuss treatment options