Fireworks Time

Now, Norman was quite a tough nut when it came to Fireworks Time, but we still didn’t let him out in the evening around this time of year (no matter how much he stalked the door and looked all dewy eyed and needy to get out).

As the bangs, crackles and thuds went on he barely raised his head off of his favourite cushion. Norman always maintained though that some of his cousins (and doggy friends) wern’t as strong as him, so he still hopes that you’re keeping your beloved four (and two) legged friends safe and warm.

C’mon Norman, you shouldn’t be out here!
Photograph: Ed @ Moggyblog

Reader, here are some tips to keep Moggy and Pooch safe and sound at this time of year. O.k you’ve heard em all before, but doing some of this stuff might save a creature from months of trauma or even an injury… well worth a refresher then! … what say you?

Practical things you can do at firework time:

Provide a hiding place: When animals are scared they may want to hide somewhere. Ideally, you should move your pets to a calmer and quieter environment long before they get scared. Bring cats and dogs safely indoors where possible. If space is not available then use a shed, conservatory or garage as their shelter. (the latter is not ideal though as sound can be made louder in a garage which is empty). Anyway, make sure there’s a safe, dark place available anywhere in your home. An example might be a cupboard with the door left partially open, a soft blanket under a bed or under the stairs might also be good. Ideally somewhere they have hidden before such as in a cardboard box or on their usual pet bed, moved into the middle of the house perhaps.

Keep the noise down: Try and reduce the noise of the fireworks as much as possible by closing the curtains, shutting doors and windows and/or putting a TV or radio on with some soothing music or gentle talking.

Keep ’em indoors: Make sure ‘Mister Tiddles’ and ‘Rex’ have had their toilet breaks before it gets dark. If they are very nervous then plan to go early in the morning or to a quiet place you know (this will be long before the kids out for fun have started gathering). Also, keep outside windows and doors firmly shut to prevent escapes, just in case pets are startled by loud bangs and try to run away.

In the case of cats, keep the litter tray especially clean at this (sometimes) stressful time of year. If it’s not clean and up to scratch they will often choose (as most of you will know already) an inappropriate place instead.

For all our animal companions please make sure they are identifiable. Using a collar with a name tag on is not always comfortable (for cats anyway), but at this time of you might want to have a collar available (these are also useful to attach in the BBQ months when she might stray with the propspect of a free chicken drumstick – Our Norman is notorious for this, bringing all manner of chops and drumsticks to the back door here, and who can blame him!) Of course the modern way to identify your companion is to get him/her micro-chipped.

Visit the Vet: If your pet is particularly nervous then please contact your vet about the many possible temporary calming methods available, including clever pheromone sprays and mild sedatives which can help. However these may be a little pricey for some pockets!

Keep a distance: Having your own family bonfire? You might want to think about buying fizzing or cascading fireworks and sparklers rather than the noisy bangers and ‘roman candles’. Also, be sure to build your bonfire and let off fireworks as far away from your home as possible, thus minimizing any adverse effects on confused and (sometimes) terrified animals indoors.

Check your bonfire area: Of course this does not mean that other wild animals will not be affected so please always check in and around your bonfires before lighting them to ensure that no small animals are curled-up asleep inside. You might even want to make a bit of a natural racket to scare creatures away before you start the proceedings.

… and Relax: Try to ignore the nervous behaviour of your animal companion as much as possible, but do let them sit by you if they so wish. If you give them too much attention when they’re scared you’ll be reinforcing the message that there is something to be scared of out there.

Reward: Giving a favourite treat (a nice piece of fish or a tender bone perhaps) may well help to keep their minds off the things going on outside. A little at a time might be a good idea, so they don’t over indulge. However, don’t be surprised if they don’t eat it! Above all when it’s all over and they re-emerge from their den, give them some extra fuss (and another treat) for having been so brave.

The ‘ban the bang’ campaign poster
Photograph: Ban The Bang!” campaign

So, A very happy (and safe) Happy Guy Fawkes Night, Diwali, Independence Day, New Year …. to you all from Stormin’ Norman (god bless him up there), the new Little Oscar, and yours truly.

First Published: Nov 5th, 2011

Ten Tips for Cat safety

Here’s a serious one reader. …a short list of dangers you can take steps to avoid (to protect your cat, or in fact any young child or pet) in and around the home. A lot of these items are a little obvious no no’s when you have a pet around, but it seems to me there’s no harm in reminding ourselves from time to time, wouldn’t you agree? Ed.
Curious cats have been known to eat anything!
1. Be aware of the plants you have in your house and in your garden, if your cat is permitted outside (the American CFA advocates cats being kept indoors at all times). The ingestion of azalea, oleander, easter lily, or yew plant material by a cat could be fatal. 2. When cleaning your house, never allow your cat access to the area where cleaning agents are used or stored. Cleaning agents have a variety of properties; from those that could just irritate the gastrointestinal tract to those that have a corrosive action and can chemically burn the sensitive mucous membranes of the mouth, esophagus, and stomach. 3. When using rat or mouse baits, ant or other insect traps, or snail and slug baits, place the products in areas that are inaccessible to your cats. Most baits contain sweet smelling inert ingredients, which can be very attractive to your cat. 4. Never give your cat any medications unless under the directions of veterinarian. Many medications that are used safely in humans can be deadly when used inappropriately. One extra strength acetominophen tablet (500mg) can kill a fully grown domestic cat. 5. Keep all prescription and over the counter drugs out of reach of your cats. Pain killers, cold medicines, anti-cancer drugs, antidepressants, and diet pills are common examples of human medication that could be potentially lethal even in small dosages. Only one half of a 200mg naproxen tablet could cause stomach ulcers in cats. 6. Never leave chocolates unattended. Approximately one half ounce of baking chocolate per pound body weight or less can cause clinical signs of toxicity. 7. Many common household items have been shown to be lethal in certain species, including felines. Miscellaneous items that are highly toxic even in low quantities include pennies (high concentration of zinc), mothballs (contain naphthalene or paradichlorobenzene – one or two balls can be life threatening in most species), potpourri oils, fabric softener sheets, automatic dish detergents (contain cationic detergents which could cause corrosive lesions), batteries (contain acids or alkali which can also cause corrosive lesions), homemade play dough (contains high quantity of salt), winter heat source agents like hand or foot warmers (contain high levels of iron), cigarettes, coffee grounds, and alcoholic drinks. 8. All automotive products such as oil, petrol, and antifreeze should be stored in areas away from cat access. As little as one teaspoon of antifreeze (ethylene glycol) can be deadly in a seven pound cat. 9. Before buying or using flea products on your cat or in your household, contact your veterinarian to discuss what types of flea products she/he would recommend for your pet. Read ALL information before using a product on your cat or in your home. Always follow label instructions. When a product is labeled “for use in dogs only” this means that the product should NEVER be applied to cats. When using a house spray, make sure to remove all cats from the area for the time period specified on the container. 10. When treating your lawn or garden with fertilizers, herbicides, or insecticides, always keep your cats away from the area until the area dries completely. Discuss usage of products with the manufacturer of the products to be used. Always store such products in an area that will ensure no cat exposure. Original article by Jill A. Richardson, DVM – https://www.cfa.org [Veterinary Poison Information Specialist ASPCA/National Animal Poison Control Center]