How to keep your cat calm over the fireworks season

cat in a field

Bonfire Night is a seasonal tradition and a sign of celebration. At this time of year, wrapping up warm to watch a stunning spectacle in the sky is an event we all look forward to. But for cats, fireworks can be a frightening experience.

Whether you're letting off fireworks in your garden, or simply watching from the window, the experts at Canagan, the grain-free pet food specialists, offer their tips on keeping your cat calm and safe before and during, the run of displays, so you can both enjoy the fireworks season.

How do cats react to fireworks?

Like all wild animals, cats instinctively associate loud noises with danger. Therefore, unexpected bangs or flashes from a fireworks display can trigger their lightning-bolt reflexes, causing them to run for safety and hide.

Cats possess an acute sense of hearing, which means the sound is amplified - and the intervals between fireworks displays can seem even louder and more shocking. Cats' outer ears can rotate up to 180 degrees and move totally independent to one another - even while their body is moving in another direction. When a cat hears a loud noise, tiny muscles in the middle ear contract to reduce sound transmission and protect the inner ear. However, fireworks occur too quickly for the reflex to provide that protection. When the display ends, the contrasting silence can leave them feeling really disorientated.

Preparing your cat for fireworks season

De-sensitise them to loud noises in advance: Start playing firework sounds quietly while you're playing with them in the home, offering treats every so often. Over time, slightly increase the volume so they become more used to the sound. Eventually, your cat will feel safe, and will only think of fun, happy moments when they hear the loud bangs around Guy Fawkes Night

Keep them indoors: To ensure your pet doesn't feel scared, get injured or even lost, keep your cat indoors and settle them down at home, in familiar surroundings, with a litter tray close by

Draw the curtains: Fireworks flashing across the skies can distress and distract cats, so shut out the light to create a relaxing environment

Escape-proof your home: Close all doors and windows, then block off the cat flap. This will prevent your cat from running away, and also help to muffle the noises coming from outside. If you're hosting, with people coming-and-going from the house, make it clear that external doors must be opened and shut swiftly to avoid your feline friend making their exit. Secure the garden too, just in case

A collar and micro-chip are a must: If your cat does run away, a collar with your details and an up-to-date microchip will ensure they can easily be traced back to you

How to keep your cat calm during a display

Mask the sound: Playing the TV or radio will reduce the impact of loud noises that can be heard in the distance

Create a ‘safe space' in your home: Whether it's a cardboard box or under furniture, create a comfortable space to which they can retreat and relax

Let them decide where to hide: Don't be concerned if your cat escapes to a dark hidey-hole where they feel safe. Don't try to pull them out of this little sanctuary, as it will only cause undue stress and it's best for your pet to stay as calm as possible throughout the evening

Act natural: Animals are perceptive, so can sense if you're behaving unusually. If your cat chooses to not to hide, they may seek reassurance. However, if you're overly affectionate during a nearby fireworks display, this can be unsettling as they make think you are worried too

Avoid picking them up: If your cat is feeling distressed, picking them up may cause them to lash out

Give them time: Even if you think the fireworks are over, remember that your cat's acute hearing may mean they're listening to far-off bangs and fizzes, so they may not re-appear right away. Cats take a while to calm down, so wait until morning before you start interacting with them. They'll emerge when they're ready, so just have food and water waiting

Avoid leaving them alone at home, if possible: Arrange a sitter to look after your cat if you have plans leave the home. If you return and your frightened kitty has toileted outside the litter tray, or scratched excessively on the furniture, don't shout, as this will only cause further confusion and distress. Otherwise, firework displays are just as impressive from a distance!

Huddling by the bonfire with delicious hot food is another highlight of an evening outdoors in the autumn. If your pet is by your side, it's all too tempting to slip them a tasty treat. However, some of our favourite warming snacks can be hazardous to our furry friends, and the truth is, we don't often stop to consider the ramifications that a titbit can have on our cats' weight, breathing and overall health.

Here are some of our winter BBQ favourites that you should be wary of your cat consuming:

Onions: Many people relish the idea of burgers and hot dogs loaded with fried onions for extra flavour. However, onions in all forms – powdered, raw, cooked and even garlic - contain a toxic element to our pets called Allium. It can harm your cat's red blood cells if sufficiently ingested, which can lead to anaemia and can cause gastrointestinal upset

Toffee apples: Sugary treats that we may enjoy on such occasions are a no-no for your pet. Xylitol can be found in candied items such as toffee apples and candy floss, which can cause your cats' blood sugar levels to drop and worst case, damage to their livers. Early symptoms include vomiting so keep an eye out if you suspect they've eaten any sweet items

If fireworks are causing your cat high levels of anxiety, seek advice from a behaviourist or trainer. De-sensitising your pet to loud noises and flashes takes time and keeping them comfortable is key in protecting their wellbeing, as well as maintaining calm behaviour. Please make sure they aren't sneaking a taste of your winter-warming foods either. This is a fun time of year so ensure your cat doesn't lose their spark.

*The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your veterinarian or other qualified pet health provider with any questions you may have regarding your pet's health*