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Reduce storm, firework stress for pets

The majority of pet owners say they have at least one dog or cat with behavioral problems, which easily can be exacerbated by such startling things as July 4 fireworks and summer thunderstorms.

Unfortunately, behavioral issues are the No. 1 reason for euthanasia in dogs and cats, resulting in the death of about 15 million pets each year.

“Summer can be an especially tough time for pets and pet owners, when thunderstorms, fireworks displays and travel can cause distress and bad behavior,” says Carolyn Stichler, vice president of marketing for Sergeant's Pet Care Products.

If you're part of the 73 percent of owners who say they have a pet that is scared of fireworks, you'll want to create a plan to help keep your cat calm.

In time for the Fourth of July, here is a summertime guide for a happier, healthier cat:

Safe space. Create a safe space for your pet to seek refuge. The area should comfortable as well as secure so he can't escape and wreak havoc or leave your home. Provide toys and other distractions.

Stay calm. Even if your cat is flipping out, remain composed. Doing so will help send the message that there's nothing to fear. Also, exhibiting anger could contribute to your pet's stress and make the problem worse.

Rely on science. More than 2 million cat owners have used a calming product on their pet.

“You may want to consider a calming collar for your pet that has been scientifically proven to reduce or eliminate bad behaviors provoked by stress-related situations,” Stichler says.

For example, Sergeant's Vetscription Calming Collar for Cats, available at mass retailers nationwide, mimics the pheromone that the mother produces to calm and reassure her kittens. Pheromones are chemical substances used for communication between members of a species.

Good for all ages and breeds, the pheromone calming collar provides constant exposure calming pheromones to helps pets feel safe and secure. More information can be found at www.sergeants.com.

A similar technology applies for dogs, says Alexis Wilson, registered vet technician with the East State Veterinary Clinic, 3319 E. State Blvd.

“There are products called ThunderShirts,” Wilson says. “It's a very snug-fitting fleece jacket, or kind of like a vest that they can fit into. That helps some pets. It kind of gives them that feeling of security. And the ones who are truly anxiety-ridden we'll give a mild sedative. We've seen that a lot so far with the fireworks going off.”

Be there. You can't be home all the time, but if you know that a fireworks display will be taking place in your community or there's a stormy forecast, don't leave your pet home alone. Stay in or consider asking a neighbor, friend or cat sitter to come over. Make sure they know what to expect and coach them on how to keep your cat calm.

Ask a vet. It never hurts to check in with a veterinarian and explain your pet's behaviors and symptoms. Your vet can offer tips and let you know whether the behaviors are normal.

“Dogs aren't the only ones (with anxiety),” Wilson says. “Cats will have anxiety, as well. Dogs tend to be most common we see it in.

“It's along the same lines of why they freak out over the vacuum cleaner, because of the unfamiliar noise, and they can't reason why this is happening. It's usually the noise, and they can feel the vibrations when it strikes. That's typically why they have anxiety.”

Steve Warden of The Journal Gazette contributed to this story.

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