How to have a pet-friendly New Year’s Eve

As the countdown to the 2024 New Year’s Eve begins, it’s important for pet parents to put a plan in place to keep their dogs and cats safe.

Keep reading for our expert’s tips for keeping pets safe and having a hassle-free celebration.

It’s a warning we hear every year, but New Year’s Eve continues to be one of the biggest danger nights for pets.

So, as we prepare to celebrate the arrival of a new year, pet parents should remember that while the occasion may be a lot of fun for us, it can be incredibly frightening for our pets.

For many animals – particularly those prone to anxiety – being left home alone during noisy neighbourhood celebrations can cause considerable stress.

Firecrackers, sparklers, loud music; it’s this noise that leads to thousands of pets being injured or lost during New Year’s Eve celebrations every year.

Veterinarian, Dr Kathy Mepstead, says there are a number of simple things owners can do to make sure their pets don’t get distressed.

“Fireworks can trigger extreme anxiety in many dogs, leading to distressing reactions such as self-injury or attempts to escape,” warns Dr Kathy.

“Their reactions can vary from simply seeking comfort to more drastic measures.”

More pets escape on New Years Eve than any other time of year, leading to an influx of lost and injured animals at shelters and vet clinics.

“Stress from firecrackers can cause significant physical symptoms in pets, such as diarrhoea and loss of appetite. 

“Many frightened animals escape, become disoriented, and end up in shelters” Dr. Kathy says.

She adds that some pets sadly don’t make it to the shelters; their fear can lead to serious harm or death, such as if they get hit by a car while fleeing.

“So being prepared and taking precautions to ensure pets are properly identified is vital.

“And it’s not just the noise of fireworks that can trigger that reaction,” she says.

Dr Kathy says another trigger for anxiety in pets is thunderstorms. And, with storms predicted on New Years Eve, she says owners must be even more vigilant.

 “Summer afternoon thunderstorms can elicit similar reactions in our pets as fireworks.”

Animal welfare organisation Four Paws Australia is helping to protect pets this New Year’s Eve by providing owners a guide to get through the evening safely.

Animal Friendly Life tips protecting scared pets new years eve
Noise from fireworks can cause stress to pets (image: stock)

We’ve shared Four Paws’ tips below, which aims to minimise the stress on both the pets, and their owners.

  • Don’t leave anxious dogs home alone; it’s important you are there to comfort them if they’re scared
  • Create a safe place indoors for them with easy access, but avoid constantly checking on them as this can heighten anxiety.
  • If your dog becomes stressed despite all precautionary measures, it is important that they can find a safe place to retreat to, such as under the bed, behind the sofa or wherever they feel most safe.
  • Creating distractions like turning on the television or radio and shutting curtains can limit the noise and flashes from the fireworks.
  • Put some calming music on to reduce your dog’s anxiety.
  • Ensure that your dog is microchipped – and the microchip details are up to date – and that they a wearing a collar and tag with your contact details.
  • If you need to take them out of the house, ensure they are on a lead at all times.
  • Anti-stress jackets are proven to have a calming effect on animals; their design exerts a continual and gentle pressure on the ribcage of the dog and contributes to reducing their anxiety.
  • White noise machines are also a great idea to calm anxious pets and help minimise the noise of the fireworks.
  • Finally, animals that have a deep fear of fireworks and loud noises can be treated for their fears with professional help, either by a vet or qualified behaviorist.
Animal friendly life pets scared new years eve
Cats are especially prone to stress and anxiety from loud, unexpected noises
  • Stay at home to comfort your pet, and always remain calm and relaxed with them.
  • Gentle, relaxing music has a soothing effect on cats and can be a great stress relief during times of stress.
  • Make sure your cat is microchipped so they have more chance of being found if they run away.
  • Block off cat flaps – ensuring an indoor litter tray is accessible – and, to be on the safe side, close all windows to prevent escape.
  • Create safe places by allowing access to rooms they can hide away in (like the bedroom where they can hide in the wardrobe).
  • Pheromones! Similar to dogs, pheromones can have a calming effect on cats, and are a great option to have on hand for particularly anxious cats.
  • Outdoor pets should be brought inside during NYE; if that’s not an option, put them in a quiet, enclosed space, such as the garden shed.
  • Place a blanket over the cage or enclosure to limit noise, just make sure there’s enough ventilation.
  • Guinea pigs, rabbits and rodents are susceptible to stress, so it’s even more important to keep them in a quiet room during the fireworks.
  • Additionally, give them an extra layer of bedding so they can hide more easily from any disturbance.

Tips for bird owners and those caring for wild birds

Bangs and flashes of light make birds panic, causing them to flutter frantically in their cage, putting them at risk of serious injury.

  • The most best, most calming environment for pet birds is a quiet room with closed curtains, blinds or shutters.
  • Cover bird baths to avoid attracting wild birds into urban areas in the lead up to the fireworks; this also ensures that no ash, debris or other firework residue land in the feeders or water source.
  • Cleaning up all firework residue promptly as it could contain toxic chemicals and other poisons that can harm animals that may ingest them.

For more information, head to Four Paws in Australia