Fifth of November can be fun for all the family but, remember, remember, firework flashes and loud bangs can prove pet-stressers across South Yorkshire.
Timely help is now at hand thanks to a bizarre development by boffins ... release of first films (illustrated here) scientifically developed to help reduce feline and canine angst caused by such explosions.
Movies for cats and dogs have been developed by MORE TH>N Pet Insurance and feature voice-over of Doctor Who "soothing narrator" David Tennant.
Films, entitled Woofering Heights and Peer Window in homage to Emily Bronte and Alfred Hitchcock classics, can be viewed on YouTube.
To us humans the short films may appear abstract and surreal, but scientists claim they are highly compelling viewing for intended four-legged audience.
According to MORE TH>N, they draw on extensive scientific insights into precise forms of audio and visual content that can at first capture and arouse the attention of animals before gradually inducing feelings of relaxation and sleep.
The company worked closely with animal behaviourist Karen Wild and vet Robert White-Adams throughout the making of both films, during which presumably no animals were harmed.
In addition to compiling an in-depth academic report, Karen Wild consulted on both productions to ensure they stayed true to research and have potential to relax cats and dogs and counter effects of noise phobia.
Peer Window https://youtu.be/z0xL2Q7D384 is a nod to Alfred Hitchcock’s classic Rear Window, set entirely within a window frame to reflect a cat’s habitual behaviour of staring through panes for approximately five hours a day. The film depicts a blend of animate and inanimate objects, as recommended by the academic research, including looping scenes of fish, swaying trees, rain droplets and rippling water, among other abstract images. Accompanying these scenes are melodic sounds in cat-friendly frequencies and softly spoken tones of Tennant – based on the scientific insight a human voice can relax cats.
Woofering Heights https://youtu.be/_xAFSNn335E is a film for dogs, employing key scientific prompts by incorporating slowly moving pastoral scenery, cast of sedentary dogs and again comforting lilt of Tennant delivering Emily Bronte-inspired narration full of words and cadences that calm canines. What’s more, the film has been shot entirely in a dog’s colour spectrum of blues and yellows, heightening the viewing experience for them.
The films are designed to be played to cats and dogs a number of times leading up to weekend's big bangs, allowing them to become familiar with content and learn by association. Both shorts replay after the credits roll to reinforce feelings of calm and relaxation.
Pet behavioural expert Karen Wild said: “Noise phobia in cats and dogs can lead to distress, injury and long-term behavioural problems, so it’s important for pet owners they do as much as they can to help calm and relax their animals.
“These films may seem strange to humans, but it’s important to realise cats and dogs do not perceive the world in the same way we do, and will respond to completely different audio and visual stimuli. Hopefully these films, in conjunction with other veterinary-approved measures, can have a positive effect on cats and dogs that suffer noise phobia.”
MORE TH>N head of pet insurance George Lewis said: “Our intention with these films is to create something practical for worried owners to use to calm their cats and dogs.
“Tried and tested with pets and their owners, these films have the potential to reduce the stress pets experience around Bonfire Night when loud fireworks are in full flow.”
Vet Robert White-Adams added: “Anything we can do to move their attention away from what’s scaring them, to something more calming and relaxing, is a valuable tool to have."
In addition to playing the films to cats and dogs, owners can try reduce impact of fireworks by following vet Robert White-Adams' advice below:
1. Take your dog outside during the day and exercise them so they are tired. As with humans, physical exercise induces endorphin release, which amongst other things has a potent anti-anxiety effect.
2. About an hour before expected fireworks give your dog/cat a medium sized normal meal. The feeling of satiety carries a potent natural anti-anxiety effect.
3. Move your pet to the area of the house in which you believe they feel most at home.
4. Cover the windows and doors, and turn on lights – you are aiming to reduce the impact and awareness of light flashes outside.
5. Put on some background music at a moderate volume – preferably music with a constant and distracting bass or beat. You are aiming to reduce the startling impact of crashes, bangs and whistles from outside.
6. If your pet is awake and active, try and distract them with gentle, calm play.