This is my first Fourth of July as a pet-owner, so forgive me for what I'm about to say: I had no idea that my cat would hate fireworks.
I suppose it makes sense — what creature does like the sound of nearby explosions? Definitely not me. But I didn't realize fireworks were such a big deal for cats until I stumbled across a Tumblr called Little Cat Diary. A blog post directed towards American cat owners who celebrate their patriotism with fireworks warned that cats will often run around and try to escape when they hear the explosions. Then, the author went on to explain an even more horrifying side effect of fireworks:
"High-pitched noises can cause siezures in cats. We learned this sad truth last year when our precious hero, Kagetora, had a seizure after a rapid-fire succession of fireworks went off. I snapped this photo a few seconds after the seizure."
Little Cat Diary
After I peeled myself up off the Verge newsroom floor — where I had been lying prone, in shock, for 15 minutes — I looked for other evidence that fireworks can cause cats to have seizures. It seemed like a weird thing to lie about, but it also seemed ridiculous and terrifying.
As it turns out, lots of veterinarians recommend that you protect your cat or dog from the sound of fireworks during Fourth of July weekend, and most of them noted that seizures were one possible reaction to the stress of overstimulation. Dr. John August, who teaches at Texas A&M's veterinary school, told the school's news site, "It's not a very wise idea to keep pets anywhere near where fireworks are being set off. The possible dangers and the stress it creates for animals are very real," and later noted that epilepsy can be triggered by loud explosions.
My cat, Ghost
One veterinary technician recommended an interesting approach: "it is highly recommended to desensitize your pet to loud noises before the festivities of Independence Day begin. Compact discs with recordings of loud and scary noises such as firework explosions, trains, thunder etc... can be used." If that sort of rude technique doesn't work, she recommends putting your pet in a room with no windows.
desensitize your pet with... compact discs?
My cat (Ghost!) and I took a fun buddy road trip to my parents' house upstate for Fourth of July weekend. Ghost was born in the wild and has some PTSD that I believe is related to hawks — he often sprints up and down the hallway of my apartment with his eyes to the sky. Therefore I am very nervous about his potential reaction to fireworks, which seem 10 factors more terrifying than birds of prey.
However, our trip involved sitting in traffic for over an hour, next to 800 furious New Yorkers who were trying to get out of the Holland Tunnel all at the same time and leaning on their horns to express their frustration. So it's possible that I have successfully desensitized him to loud, terrifying noises already! If not: my parents have three female cats who all hate him, so he tends to spend most of his time hiding as it is.
Fellow pet owners, what do you do to keep your cat calm during your Fourth of July festivities? Do you leave him or her to their own devices? Do you wait to snap a pic of them when they are making an embarrassing facial expression, like the operator of Little Cat Diary? Do you film a very boring video that is inaccurately titled and sort of makes me think this whole situation is not as dire as the internet wants me to believe (?):
Was this whole post an excuse to show you lots of pictures of my adorable cat named Ghost? No, it was to help you and your cat stay safe. Geez.