Cats may be just as likely as dogs to experience firework fear but their owners are less able to recognise the behaviour.1 Cat owners are also less likely to use common techniques adopted by dog owners, such as distraction, to help calm their cat.1 Making cat owners aware of the help available and suggesting fear reduction strategies could result in welfare improvements for thousands of cats during firework season say vets at natural premium supplements company Lintbells.
Specialist in Veterinary Behavioural Medicine and Clinical Certified Animal Behaviourist, Dr Lorella Notari, PhD, MSc, Dip. ECAWBM-CA, MRCVS, says unlike dogs, cats are more likely to exhibit hiding and cowering behaviours when scared by loud noises, “This quieter strategy can make it more difficult for owners to recognise that their cat has a welfare problem. They might be, or become, more sound-sensitive for a number of reasons that includes their temperament, their early experiences and their physical and behavioural health.”
Cat owners who recognise the signs of noise phobia in their cats report the duration of the fearful response as equivalent to that reported in dogs.1 Owners may also be unaware that comforting the pet could also result in an increased duration and severity of the fearful response in both cats and dogs.1
Lintbells Veterinary Director James Howie thinks that vets can play an important role in making their clients aware that a cat that’s hiding is suffering just as much as the dog that’s obviously trembling or seeking attention around fireworks time, “It’s sad that people are not acting because many of the simple things that work for dogs can work for cats to reduce stress – creating a safe den, using normal background sounds like the TV to mask the sounds of fireworks and using calming products can all make a difference. Cats should also be checked out for any physical problems that might be implicated in any change in behaviour.”
Lintbells has produced a range of support materials for practices that want to help their clients recognise the signs they need to be aware of in both dogs and cats, including social media graphics showing dilated pupils, crouching and flattened ears. They are free to download at https://www.lintbellsvet.com/digital-materials/
For further information visit www.lintbellsvet.com.
- Dale AR, Walker JK, Farnworth MJ, Morrisey SV, Waran NK (2010) A survey of owners’ perceptions of fear of fireworks in a sample of dogs and cats in New Zealand, New Zealand Veterinary Journal, 58:6