The slew of guests, fireworks, and festivities of the New Year may be exciting for us human-folk, but it might be a different story for dogs and cats.
Holiday-related activities may cause stress. And the biggest risk to pets during New Year’s Eve? They may escape and get lost due to severe anxiety.
In this complete guide, we’ve put together vital tips on how to have a safe New Year’s Eve - and in particular, prevent cat and dog fireworks anxiety.
Why the New Year Can Be Particularly Stressful for Dogs & Cats
Though fireworks are a big reason why Fidos and Garfields are freaked out during New Year’s Eve, cat or dog fireworks anxiety is not the only thing to keep in mind.
Dogs and cats can be stressed out by the various elements of New Year’s Eve festivities, such as:
- Unfamiliar decorations
- Loud music
- Unfamiliar guests
- Small children playing
- Sparklers & party poppers
- Popping champagne bottles
- Party events & commotions
Why is my Dog or Cat Scared of Fireworks?
Fireworks are a particular source of cat and dog anxiety that pet parents should keep in mind. Loud noises and bright flashes from fireworks can be frightening and overwhelming for both dogs and cats. In addition, different breeds have different predispositions - so it’s possible that some dogs or cats may be more genetically predisposed to being more afraid of fireworks than others.
Signs of Dog & Cat Anxiety
A. Dog Fireworks Anxiety or General Anxiety During New Year
So how exactly does one recognize dog fireworks anxiety or dog anxiety in general? Here are a few signs to look out for:
- Hiding or seeking shelter in an enclosed space
- Urinating inside the house
- Panting or pacing
- Barking or whining
- Trembling or shaking
- Restlessness and being more alert than normal
- Seeking attention or reassurance
- Scratching at the floor
- Licking their lips or yawning
- Note: In both humans and dogs, yawning can be due to stress - not just sleepiness
B. Cat Fireworks Anxiety or General Anxiety During New Year
To the untrained eye, many cats seem unfazed by fireworks and festivities. So if you’re wondering whether or not your cat is actually afraid, look for the following behavioral clues regarding cat anxiety:
- Hiding or seeking shelter in an enclosed space
- Increased aggression or decreased tolerance
- Dilated pupils (even if the cat is in a well-lit area)
- Flat or sideways ears
- Crouching or walking uncharacteristically closer to the ground
- Trying to escape
How to Calm a Dog During Fireworks & Festivities
1. Establish a Safe Space
Provide a crate or a quiet room where your dog can retreat to if they are feeling anxious. This can help your canine companion feel safe if the festivities get too much.
Here are some rules and tips about establishing this doggy den:
- Keep the den away from the hustle and bustle
- Do not intrude into the dog’s safe space (and instruct your guests to do the same)
- Place familiar items, food, and bed sheets to help your dog feel safe
2. Play White Noise
White noise helps to drown out the sound of the fireworks and make your dog feel more at ease.
3. Give Your Dog Exercise Before New Year’s Eve
Try giving your dog some exercise before the fireworks start: Taking your dog for a walk or run before New Year’s Eve will tire them out and thereby reduce their anxiety.
Dogs can recognize human verbal and nonverbal cues - it’s one of the reasons why we love them so much!
However, this means that if you yourself are panicking and agitated for your dog’s wellbeing on New Year’s Eve, you may unintentionally cause your dog to feel more fearful. So take heart and try to be at ease, pet parent.
5. Added Precautions for the New Year
Never leave your dog outside unattended during New Year’s Eve. It is also important to make sure that your dog is wearing identification tags in case they manage to escape and get lost.
6. Dog Anxiety Aids
Anxiety aids like ThunderShirts and medication can help dogs with severe anxiety. A thunder shirt helps reduce your dog's anxiety by providing a sense of pressure and security. And if you’re wondering if you need dog medication for anxiety, consult your local Denver vet.
How to Calm a Cat Down During Fireworks & Festivities
1. Give them Access to Hiding Spaces
As much as we’d like to have our cool cats hanging around for guests to adore during New Year’s Eve, they need to be given access to hiding spaces in case they become too afraid of the commotion.
Tell your guests (especially small kids) to leave a hiding cat alone. Stress can make cats more aggressive. So rule of thumb: the scaredy cat must never be picked up by strangers.
2. Play Calming Music
Gentle music has a calming effect on cats. Before the hustle and bustle of the New Year festivities, try various types of calming music and see which one your cat responds to in the most relaxed way. This will be a good addition to your cat-calming tool kit on New Year’s Eve.
3. Have a Pheromone Diffuser Handy
Though a ThunderShirt can work for some cats, not all cats like wearing something on their body. Also, some cats like to groom more when stressed and a ThunderShirt can get in the way of that.
The next best thing to have is a pheromone diffuser which releases a harmless compound that reassures cats. Pheromones can help cats feel more safe and secure in different situations.
4. Added Precautions for the New Year
Remember to always keep your cat inside during New Year, especially when the fireworks begin. Cats are escape artists - so make sure that all windows and doors are securely closed. To be on the safe side, make sure that your cat is wearing identification tags in case they do escape.
5. Considering Cat Anxiety Medication
If your cat's anxiety is severe, ask your local Denver veterinarian if medical intervention is necessary.
Other Pet Safety Tips During New Year’s Eve
In addition to preparing for the major potential stressor of fireworks, there are a few additional practices to follow to keep your cat or dog safe and stress free during the holiday.
- Keep decorations out of reach — dogs, in particular, will chew on potential choking hazards when stressed out.
- Instruct your guests to not feed your cat or dog.
- Feed your cat or dog before the party so that they are less likely to go on “aggressive scavenger mode” for scraps.
- Keep sparklers, roman candles, and other fireworks-type items out of reach. Dogs can eat fireworks and it can be TOXIC for them.
In Case of Emergency
Sploot Veterinary Care is your go-to veterinary clinic for urgent and primary care in Denver. Whether you're worried about dog fireworks anxiety, cat anxiety, pet injuries during New Year’s Eve, or you suspect your pet has eaten something harmful, we’re here for you.
Our clinic doors are open 10am - 10pm, 365 days a year and we accommodate same day and walk-in appointments. Give us a call or book an appointment here.
If you’d like to learn more about Sploot-tastic pet parenting, check out more of our FREE & vet-approved resources.
Have a wonderful New Year’s Eve, pet parents!