The 4th of July is a favorite day of celebration for many people, but let’s be honest. It’s a day of terror for many pets. And while we’re at it, let’s be even more precise: the Forth of July might as well be renamed “Feline Fright Night” for most cats. So what’s a devoted cat guardian to do?? There is a cornucopia of clever advice for dog owners to help their canine companions on the Night of Assault on the Senses, but what about the cats?? Cats need help, too!
Feline Fact: Hearing is a cat’s best developed sense. A cat’s sense of hearing is far more acute than that of dogs and humans! A cat can hear sounds up to 64,000 kHz. By comparison, dogs can hear sounds up to 45,000 kHz, while humans hear sounds only up to 23,000 kHz.
So why does this matter? Well, it means that all sounds are much more intense for cats. Combine this fact with a cat’s lack of understanding (or appreciation) for a day dedicated to deliberately making things explode, and you have the perfect recipe for a full on Feline Freak Out.
Here’s the good news: family festivities such as the 4th of July don’t have to become the Feline Fright Night to our kitty friends! There are many things that you can do to help your feline family members successfully cope with the Big, Bad Booms and Bangs this weekend. Below are some of my most valuable tools to help you become a Conscious Companion, and change Fourth of July Fright Night into a stress-free experience for everyone in the home!
How to Make Your Home a SAFE, CALM Haven for your Feline BEFORE The FIREWORKS Begin!
- Keep Kitty Indoors! Even the savviest of kitties can become startled, scared, disoriented, or confused and stray far from home when those frightening sights and sounds begin. More pets go missing on/after Independence Day than any other day of the year! Why risk it? Keep your cats inside the day and night before, during, and a few days after July 4th. Be aware that Independence Day is on a Friday this year. It’s a safe bet that the firework festivities will last long into the weekend, so be sure to keep your Pet Guardian guard up! Don’t assume that once the 4th of July passes, that the booms and cracks have passed, too. Be ready for anything!
- Create Safe Zones. – Make a Feline Fort Hideout! Set up a “fort” or safe place of refuge for your cat(s) in the home. If you don’t have a “safe room” yet, I strongly recommend that you create one today. It can be as simple as a chair covered with a blanket, a comfy “hidey” spot in the back of the closet, the bathroom, or a covered crate that feels like a cozy kitty den. Even the space underneath a bed can comforting to cats. Be sure to set up this Safe Zone away from windows where the sights and sounds are loudest and brightest. Acclimate them to this safe zone before the firework festivities begin. Offer treats and attention when they are in this area. By doing this, you are creating positive feelings with this safe zone.
TIP: If you are not sure where to set up this safe zone, observe where each cat chooses to retreat when they are over stimulated. Ask yourself: Where do they go when company comes over, the big game is on TV, or when a storm hits? Where do they hide? That’s where you want to build Fort Hideout!
TIP: If you have a nervous kitty like we do, prepare ahead of time for their comfort and safety. Make sure they have their favorite cozy hideaway ready. If they love boxes, provide one or two for them to explore. You can also consider adding a dash of catnip to get them relaxed and increase their confidence! Remember that some cats become relaxed on catnip, while others can become very wound-up.
- Play Calming Music. Soothing classical music is beneficial for many species. Therapeutic music such as Through a Cat’s Ear and iCalm for Cats has been scientifically proven to reduce anxiety and have calming effects on cats! It is psycho-acoustically designed and clinically demonstrated to calm the feline nervous system. However, it’s most effective when you play the music well before the fireworks begin, at a time when the cat or dog is already relaxed. Animals will start to associate the music with being calm and content. Then you play the music a couple of hours before the fireworks start and continue to play through bedtime. Check out these free sound samples!
NOTE: Don’t just crank up any old tunes or the T.V. in an attempt to make the inside of the house louder than outside. That will only create more stress on the cats. Keep the energy inside peaceful and calm.
- Consider homeopathic calming remedies. Homeopathic relaxation supplements such as Feliway (cat appeasing pheromones), Spirit Essences, HomeoPet, and Pet Rescue Remedy are very helpful with calming an cat’s nerves on the big bad boom day. We use Spirit Essences —This product does wonders for stress levels! Check with your veterinarian before you use them.
Note: Feliway is a liquid synthetic copy of the feline facial pheromone, used by cats to mark their territory as safe and secure. You can spray it on their favorite napping spots to make them feel more secure.
Note: If your cat has reacted very badly to fireworks, etc. in the past, you can consider discussing stronger medications with a veterinarian who specializes in feline anti-anxiety medicine. I recommend trying the above products before rushing to the vet for prescription meds! We have seen incredible success with these products. Medication alone is generally not going to “fix” much of anything. It’s can be a helpful intervention, but not a specific treatment. It needs to be paired with counter conditioning techniques.
- Utilize Tactile Tools. There are two wraps on the market that reportedly help pets with noise phobias. The original Anxiety Wrap uses acupressure and maintained pressure to reduce stress. Thunder Shirts have been successful with calming many cats. Over 85% of Thundershirt users see significant improvement in noise anxiety symptoms. The Storm Defender Cape has a metallic lining that discharges the fur and shields them from static charge build-up before and during storms. Rubbing an animal down with scent-free dryer sheets can help with reducing the static charge as well!
- Reduce the Visual Assault. Close the windows and blinds or anything around the house that will help to eliminate the visual assault on their senses. Turn on lights around the house. This will also help to block out the flashes from the fireworks.
- Be calm. Our companion animals are very in-tune with our emotions. If we are stressed or anxious about the upcoming booms and bangs, I can guarantee you that they will become anxious and stressed, too.
- Know the signs of STRESS! Cats can display their anxiety and stress in a variety of different ways. Be a Conscious Companion; learn to recognize their individual stress signals, which may include any (or all) of those listed here.
- Comfort Your Cat! If your cat is displaying fear and anxiety when the fireworks begin, stay calm and stay near them. Contrary to some belief, this is NOT rewarding fearful behavior!
- Distract them! Start playful game and break out the treats if they are beginning to show signs of fear and anxiety. You can also offer novelty items such as cat nip, special treats, and enrichment toys. Grab some of that recycling material and create a fast, homemade puzzle toy! The idea here is to turn Fright Night into Fun Night!
TIP: Withholding these toys for a few days ahead of time will make these treats even more special on the Night of Assault on the Senses.
- Check out more tips of how to be a Conscious Companion, and change “Fourth of July Fright Night” into a stress-free experience for everyone in the home!
How do you keep your feline family members safe on The Fourth of July? Please share your tips!