Autumn can be a wonderful time with our pets, but events like Halloween and Bonfire Night can leave them feeling anxious. While there is no magic fix to relaxing cats and dogs during the party season, there are a few steps you can take to reduce your pet’s stress.
We chatted to HiLife friend and animal behaviour consultant Andrew Hale from Pet Remedy, supplier of calming pet products, to find out his top tips on helping pets stay relaxed and happy.
Naturally, dogs’ and cats’ behaviour will change during this time and it’s important not to react negatively. For instance, when dogs are stressed, they might begin to pace around the house, shake, whine or bark. Cats, on the other hand, might toilet outside their litter tray, become aggressive, pace around the house or meow excessively.
Animals use their bodies to communicate, so it’s important that we don’t tell them off for their automated stress response as it could intensify their anxiety. Instead, we must be patient with our pets and offer reassurance by stroking them, giving out their favourite treats, having playtime — or whatever makes them feel most loved and comforted.
Creating a safe space pets can go to when they are feeling scared and anxious during fireworks is key to reducing their anxiety. Often, the pet will choose this place so think about where they have gone previously and ensure it is available to them. You can add extra bedding or cover it over with their favourite blanket to make it extra cosy.
Make sure to walk dogs during daylight hours to avoid times when fireworks are likely to be set off. This also applies to toilet breaks; for example, if your neighbours are setting off fireworks, it could leave pups in a vulnerable position.
As for cats, try and keep them indoors during firework displays by calling them in early and locking the cat flap. There is a significant rise in missing pets during the week either side of Bonfire Night so it’s important to keep them safe at home.
When it comes to Halloween, leaving a sign on the door saying ‘sensitive pet — please no trick or treat callers’ can also go a long way in reducing anxiety.
Increasing the volume of the TV or playing background noise can go a long way in reducing our pets’ stress. Not only does it help limit the noise from outside, but it can be a great distraction tool. Another tip is to close all windows, draw any curtains and close the blinds so they can’t see any firework displays.
It’s also a good idea to keep them happy and distracted with their favourite treats. For example, HiLife it’s only natural cat treats come in three delicious flavours (chicken, duck and whitefish), and are made from 100% meat and fish — a delicious, healthy distraction for your kitty! Similarly, HiLife has a delicious range of dog chews and treats for pups to enjoy.
Finally, consider using calming products, such as Pet Remedy’s plug-in diffusers and sprays, to help de-stress them. The special blend of essential oils works alongside natural relaxation pathways to help calm our pets’ nerves. What’s more, the oils can cause pets to become more attentive and receptive which is key for owners trying to reassure them.
It’s a good idea to use these products in an area where the pet is likely to be several days before the potentially stressful event — such as spraying it on their bedding or plugging in the diffuser near their favourite comfy spot.
Always speak to your vet if you’re concerned about your pet’s wellbeing and get in touch with pet charities such as Battersea, Birmingham Dogs Home, Cats Protection or Dogs Trust if you need more advice.