Pop legend Ed Sheeran will help prevent the nation’s fretting pets amid terrifyingly loud firework displays on New Year’s Eve – after one of his smash hits was picked for a new pet-calming music video channel.
Sheeran’s ‘Perfect’ features on the 175-minute loop, along with other songs by the likes of Norah Jones, Billie Eilish, Ronan Keating and Taylor Swift.
The music videos were specifically chosen for their ability to soothe dogs – and cats – following a month-long analysis into the perfect tone, tempo and visual elements required to distract pets from the frightening firecrackers and screaming rockets set to soar into the sky as we enter 2022.
The two separate channels for quaking cats and cowering canines were developed by free TV Music App, ROXi, in collaboration with top UK pet behaviour specialist Professor Peter Neville, who said, “Cats and dogs have a far more acute sense of hearing than humans. So, the loud explosions, crackles and whistles are likely startlingly audible across an even wider range than we humans experience.
“The loud noises and flashing lights of fireworks may sound and look different each time, whilst exploding at different intervals, so dogs and cats can’t get used to them in the same way as they habituate to the sound of traffic or aircraft flying overhead, for example.
“So, these playlists could help make a big difference for our pets on New Year’s Eve. All of these songs may keep your dogs and cats calm, either by the soothing effects of the melody or the calming visual content of the video, or both.
“For example, Naughty Boy ft Beyonce’s song ‘Runnin’ (Lose It All)’ has subdued lighting in the moody underwater scenes early on, and then later, the track develops and becomes quite upbeat to help distract a frightened dog without alarming them. That sort of content is very calming. It may even remind dogs of walking along riverbanks, seeing the water ripple on a warm summer’s day, totally relaxed.
“If they watch this sort of video, they will hopefully become absorbed in it, which will help take their minds off the fireworks.
“All the tracks are slow and don’t have massive or sudden high-pitch noises or huge loud drum beats, so these will be comforting to dogs.”
Top 10 tips to keep your pets safe & calm during firework displays – and how to help them learn to cope
- Opt for day-time strolls
Walk dogs during daylight hours to avoid times when fireworks are likely to be set off – also to tire them out more, as this will help them relax and doze indoors later. Bring cats that are allowed outdoors inside long before nightfall to prevent them from running away in panic outdoors and getting lost when night falls and the fireworks start up.
2. Pre-dusk dinner time
Look to feed pets after exercise but before dusk – as a full stomach also induces drowsiness in a warm house.
3. Batten down the hatches
Close all windows and curtains to screen the flashes outdoors and help muffle the sound of fireworks.
4. Locate a safe place
Keep your pet safely indoors in a warm basement, bathroom or ‘central room’ of the house, if possible, where sights and sounds from the outdoors penetrate least. Make sure your pet has their bedding with familiar cosy blankets, toys and chews, which can all help keep them occupied and feel more comfortable and relaxed.
5. Develop the ‘den’ concept
If your dog is den or crate-trained (ie, an indoor kennel that functions as a den), make sure this space is available, warm, and cosy. Covering the den with a blanket to make it darker inside and more sound-proofed can also increase its safety value.
Most wild dogs head to their underground dens for safety during storms or to escape other threats, and cats retire to secluded covered areas, so this is perhaps the closest to a ‘natural’ facility to help your pets escape and relax during fireworks, storms, and other noisy threats.
Your pet will also feel much more ‘in control’ of their circumstance. It’s highly advisable to introduce your pet to their safe den from the day you first bring them home and help them associate it as a safe, fun place. You can do this by offering treats and chews inside and leaving them undisturbed there whenever they wish to relax or sleep.
Never lock your pet inside or use the den as a ‘sin bin’. The more your furry friend loves their den, the more reassuring a place it will be when they choose to go there if alarmed by fireworks.
Be normally active in the same room as your pet and watch them closely. Reassure your pet with soothing words for a moment or two and pet them gently if they become alarmed. Look to then relax and behave normally again to show them that life is going on normally, despite the noises outside.
Try not to smother them with attention or they will learn only to rely on you to protect them, rather than how to cope better for themselves. Your pet will tolerate the sound of fireworks better if they can learn for themselves that they have no dangerous consequences and will then be able to relax.
6. Play music and music videos to mellow your pet
To help soothe your anxious animal frightened by fireworks, play ROXi’s dedicated cat or dog music video channel on your TV – ideally in the room where your pet’s den is situated. The custom curated music video channels will not only help to drown out the noises from outdoors – but will also help to soothe and relax them. The tracks and images in the music videos have all been carefully selected for their calming effects on cats and dogs and will help relieve their worries.
7. Wrap them up
Anxiety wraps and vests such as ‘Thundershirts’ are available from most good pet stores and can offer calming reassurance for some dogs. They are best fitted well in advance of firework displays.
8. Try a pheromone diffuser
Consider installing a pheromone diffuser close to your pet’s den or preferred resting area. These synthetic pheromones are available from your vet and larger pet stores, and some are specifically designed to have a calming effect on anxious cats and dogs. Some pheromones are also available as sprays to apply directly to your pet’s bedding.
9. Play with your pet
Try to engage with your pet, either with physical contact through grooming before the outdoor noises begin, or through social play. For example, indoor toy retrieving games, but especially fun physical contact play involving petting and stroking.
With repetition, your pet will ideally learn to associate the bangs and flashes of a firework display with something fun and positive, rather than being afraid or learning only to tolerate them. However, this ‘gold standard’ of enjoyment may take quite some time and patience and require the help of a qualified pet behaviourist.
Also look to ignore the sound of fireworks and storms yourself so that your pet doesn’t take a reactive cue from you and become more alarmed.
10. Start to desensitise your pet to loud noises
You can start this process by playing recordings or online streams of the sound of fireworks at a very low level first when feeding your pet at their usual mealtimes. When they have come to accept this without reacting to the sounds, start to play-train them indoors to learn tricks such as offering a paw on request, as well responding to basic cues such as ‘sit’ and ‘down’ while the soundtrack plays, still very quietly.
Offer your pet treats as they learn, as these tasks and their rewards will keep them focused on you and ignore the background sounds. Over time, and through frequent short sessions rather than long occasional ones, you can slowly increase the sound of the fireworks in the background as your pet learns to associate them with happy and rewarding experiences. This approach is likely to be easier to apply with dogs than cats, although some cats are far more trainable than you might believe!
Once your pet is relaxed in these play-training sessions, quickly replace the sounds of fireworks and storms with the ROXi channels on the TV, so these tracks become new signals associated with interacting with you and having fun when fireworks are coming.
The tracks themselves will then hopefully become cues to help your pet move from just tolerating fireworks and storms to one of expectation of enjoyment when those bangs and flashes start.
To read about the campaign for firework legislation: firework campaign