As any cat owner can attest, cats hate loud noises, which they associate with danger. Their reactions are an evolutionary response to a situation that might require them to fight or take flight, according to veterinary experts. So it’s no surprise that fireworks can be pretty scary to cats.
Signs that your cat may show if he is afraid of fireworks include dilated pupils, growling, pinned-back ears, crouching, and moving low and slow with his belly low to the ground. He may head under the bed or into a closet to seek refuge. Some cats may even become so panicked that they bolt out a screened window. So it’s a good idea to keep windows closed, which will also help muffle the noise of fireworks.
Make sure their favorite areas to go when frightened are available to them. You can also create a safe room with several cozy hiding places where they can run to and hide if they want. Put the cat’s litter box and water bowl in the safe room too. Close curtains and blinds to help block flashes of light. You can also try to cover the noise. Renowned cat behaviorist Pam Johnson-Bennett recommends music or television rather than white noise because those are household sounds cats are already familiar with.
She also recommends creating a “cat cave” where they can take comfort. You can make your own cave-style bed by stretching a t-shirt over a box. Just put the neck hole of the shirt over the opening of the box, turn the box on the side and line it with something soft. An advantage to using a homemade bed is that you can use a shirt you’ve already worn that has your comforting scent already on it, according to Johnson-Bennett.
Another tip from Johnson-Bennett is to create a cat tunnel to the litter box so that kitty can get there without feeling exposed. If you don’t already have a cat tunnel you can make one out of paper bags by cutting out the bottoms and taping them together.
Over-the-counter products that may help relieve your cat’s stress include compression shirts and synthetic pheromone sprays, collars or plug-in diffusers. CBD products may offer relief as well. (See our July 2020 blog, “Understanding CBD for Pets“). If in the past your cat has been truly terrified of fireworks, you might want to talk to your veterinarian about an anti-anxiety medication.
Staying calm yourself will also help get your cat through a night of fireworks. Take your cue from your cat and provide whatever kind of comfort she wants, whether letting her burrow her head in the crook of your arm or retreating to the back of the closet.
Just pay attention to what works for your cat, and you will be going a long way to making them feel safe and secure.