In light of the highly politized nature of this moment, let me start by noting my dislike of July 4 has nothing to do with politics. Indeed, I have the same exact feelings about New Year’s Eve. Both, in my view, have become little more than excuses for loud and obnoxious human behaviors which jeopardize our pets and wildlife, as well as other humans. “Bombs bursting in air” has always seemed to me a pretty dumb way to celebrate the American experiment (so, too, the passing of a year), and if there’s anything our collective frayed nerves do not need right now it is drunken crowds setting off explosions. But working on the assumption that the show will go on despite my objections, how best to care for our animal friends during these unwelcome festivities…?
Cats have special muscles in the middle ear which squeeze to help muffle loud noises, which is a fine adaptation if the TV’s up too loud but scant protection from booming fireworks. Dogs not only hear sound more acutely than do humans, they also hear noises both much higher and lower than we do: those screeching, stomach-vibrating explosions are torture. Sudden, loud noise is a source of misery for both species. Not only are they made miserable by the sounds of firework (which can actually cause damage to the inner ear), but the startle effect is often terrifying, as if the very air itself has suddenly become a fierce predator with no safe place to hide. Many humane societies find themselves with a lot of extra animals come July 5, with dogs breaking down fences and cats jumping through windows to escape from what must seem unescapable.
Stay home with your pets. Keep them indoors long before and after the expected blasting. Turn on some quiet, soothing music. Dim the lights, drop the window shades and reach deep into your patience if you find pee on the floor. If you know your animal is supersensitive to scary events, this is a good time to talk with your veterinarian about a possible prescription. As for wildlife, offer them your best wishes for getting through this unharmed. Like I said, not my favorite holiday.
Ken White is the president of the Peninsula Humane Society & SPCA.