July 4th is a day filled with family cook-outs, fireworks, swimming, and in general, good times… for the humans, that is. For pets, Independence Day can be a day (and night) of unsettling noises, separation from the family, confusion and danger. Here are some tips to help keep your cat safe during this holiday.
Keep Your Pet Indoors
Even if you have a cat who is extremely street savvy, the sudden noise of firecrackers going off in the neighborhood can cause her to become fearful and disoriented. It’s not only the frightening noise that can cause panic, it can also be the burning smell of the firecrackers. A day that we associate with so much celebration is filled with things that can create panic in our animals.
Sadly, there are also some mean people in this world who delight in deliberately frightening animals by tossing firecrackers in their direction. It would be very easy for a cat or dog, trying to escape, to end up running right into oncoming traffic.
Many people begin their fireworks fun a couple days in advance of July 4th and continue on until their supply has run out. Keep your cat indoors a few days before the holiday.
If you have an exclusively outdoor only cat, please bring her indoors to keep her safe from the noise and danger of firecrackers. Veterinary clinics are very busy on July 5th treating the panicked and injured pets who were outdoors during the July 4th holiday. You don’t want to spend July 5th at the veterinary hospital.
Be Careful Going in and Out
If you’re having a cook-out, be careful as you go in and out the door to prevent an unwanted escape. Double check that doors are securely latched and that window screens don’t have any tears. Cats can easily push through a flimsy screen.
Even if you always keep your cat indoors, make sure her identification is current. It’s easy for a kitty to slip out the door while in a panicky state and end up lost, injured or even dead. Microchipping is the safest method of identification but it’s no good if you haven’t updated your information with the registry. Collars with identification should also be used but be sure the information on the tag is current. Surprisingly, I’ve come across many families who don’t pay attention to the fact that the phone number on the ID tag is an outdated cell number.
Set up a Sanctuary Room
If you’re having guests over or you’re going to be away, set up a sanctuary room for your cat that includes some safe hiding places and all the resources she’ll need. A sanctuary room will better ensure her safety if you have company going in and out of the house during a BBQ or outdoor celebration. Periodically, go in and check on your cat in a very casual way just to see how she’s doing. Some cat parents have had success with using pheromone therapy as a calming method. If your cat reacts favorably to Comfort Zone, plug in the diffuser in the sanctuary room or wherever your cat is spending the most time.
Take a Current Photo
If you’re like me, you’re always snapping photos of your cat but just in case you haven’t taken one in quite a while, have a current photo ready just in case your cat does get lost.
Don’t Leave Your Cat Home Alone
If your cat does react to the noise of fireworks or if she shares her home with a dog who gets very fearful of the noise, don’t leave your pets home alone. Hire a pet sitter or ask a neighbor to visit while you go out and watch the fireworks.
If your cat is getting anxious about the noise going on outdoors, distract her with interactive playtime. Keep your body language and tone very casual so that you send a message to her that all is ok in her world. If your cat is in a sanctuary room because you have company over, periodically go in and check on her to make sure she’s calm and perhaps do a little impromptu play session with her. If you have a cat-entertainment DVD, play that to keep her occupied. YouTube also has lots of interesting videos that showcase fish, birds and other critters that will keep kitty amused and distracted.
Use Music as a Buffer
Play soft music to block out the noise taking place outdoors. If you must go out and leave your cat alone, it may be a big help to have music playing in the various rooms she tends to favor.
Create Safe Hideaways
Most cats feel safer when they feel they’re not so out in the open. Create some hideaways for your cat by setting up a high-sided bed (a donut bed or “A” shaped bed) or even just put a few boxes on their sides and line them with towels. This may help limit how much time your cat spends hiding under the bed or in a closet. If she feels she has a safe hiding option in the room where the family is, she may be more likely to stay with you.
Keep Cats on Their Normal Diet
Picnic and BBQ foods aren’t appropriate for pets and can cause problems ranging from mild stomach upset to extreme toxicity. The same applies to alcoholic beverages. Make sure all these foods and beverages are kept out of reach of your pets and that all guests to your home know the rules about not offering these things to your cat or dog.
Keep Matches, Lighters and Citronella Candles out of Reach
Even inhaling the citronella scent can cause irritation to your cat so keep all of these things out of your pet’s reach. Make sure your dog doesn’t have access to matches or lighters that could get chewed on or ingested.
The popular glowsticks that kids wear as jewelry or use outdoors at night can cause irritation if chewed. Keep these things out of your pet’s reach.
Don’t give your cat any calming medication unless you’ve been instructed to do so by your veterinarian. You don’t know what side effects may occur or how your cat may react to a particular medication the first time it’s administered.
Need More Information?
For more specific information on how to use distraction and playtime to help with behavior modification, refer to any of Pam’s books.
We’re sorry but Pam is unable to respond to questions or remarks posted in the comment section. If you have a question about cat behavior, you can find many answers in the articles Pam writes for the website as well as in her best-selling books.