Sunday, June 28, 2009

4th of July: Beware of fireworks

The pet sitters' nightmare week has arrived. While the rest of the nation celebrates, we cringe. Shelters hunker down and wait for the strays to pour in. Pet sitters can't be at every home at the same time, so they must prepare for the noise and their client pets' unusual reactions.

In areas where fireworks are allowed, the racket starts as soon as the fireworks stands go up, and escalates until the big blowout on the 4th. Meanwhile, especially if you are in the midwest, summer thunderstorms terrorize sensitive animals in the same way.

What to do about sensitive animals and their fear of loud noises?

There are loads of articles about how to desensitize pets to the noise. But as pet sitters, we aren't in a position to do advance training. And we may not even know that the pet will react badly when the racket begins. Here are some tips to help you prepare your animals for a peaceful SAFE holiday:

Turn on the TV or radio to mask the sound. Make sure it's not a channel broadcasting 4th of July concerts and fireworks shows! The Home Shopping Channel is a good choice. Even classical music radio channels are going to play the "1812 Overture", complete with crashing and booming. Animals can sense the atmospheric change when thunderstorms are coming, so this solution doesn't help as much for storms.

Double check doors, windows and gates to be sure they are securely latched. A terrified dog will tear through a window screen, so shut the windows.

Crate the dog if you know he is likely to panic. Talk to owners in advance, and ask them how their dog reacts to loud noises.

Don't forget cats. Put out some catnip out for nervous kitties, and confine them to their favorite room with lots of hiding places.

Try not to leave any pets outside. Even the calmest dog can panic and escape when terrified. If you HAVE to leave them outside, be sure they have on a secure collar and ID. Shelters fill up with panicked strays that end up miles from home.

And one last thought: The safest place for a pet on the 4th of July might be in a boarding kennel, not at home.

Here's to a SAFE and happy 4th of July!

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