Fireworks kept my cat in but he learnt to use the litter

Charlie my cat

Handsome Charlie. My photo.

Charlie, my cat, is terrified of the sound of fireworks. Even distant thumps make him look wide-eyed in terror. His ears are permanently pricked up or swiveling to locate the the source of the sound.

Some cats are much less bothered about the noise of fireworks but for some, like Charlie, it seems to be, almost, traumatic.

He scuttles off to find somewhere to hide. In fact, I made sure he had somewhere to hide for his peace of mind. It was a dark corner of the apartment behind some books etc.. I have spent quiteΒ  a lot of time reassuring him. He is quite twitchy at any noise now, even noises that I make. He is clearly on edge.

For the past five years of his life he has gone to the toilet outside in the garden. Having just moved home I had to introduce him to a new place. Then came the fireworks in the lead up to bonfire night (5th Nov.). He was too frightened to go out. I knew he’d do it and he did. He pooed on the floor in the lounge. It was OK because it is a wood floor.

I cleaned it up and found my old cat litter tray and placed it in the place where he had gone. The next day he took his time sniffing around it and jumped in. Great. He had a pee. I left the pee in it so that he knew for sure that this was his toilet. This morning, early, he peed in it again. I am waiting for the poo to seal the deal, to confirm that this is his new toilet.

In my experience cats naturally use cat litter because the litter tray is normally inside the house where the alternative, a hard floor of some kind, is much less attractive for a cat to poo and pee on. Cats like to bury it. They want something that can be raked over to form a small hole. As a results cats migrate to the better substance on which to go to the toilet.

I am actually pleased that he is using a cat litter because it is safer for him. I don’t really want him wandering too far outside and getting lost or meeting another cat and having a standoff.

I think that the only time when a cat needs litter training is when he has developed an aversion to cat litter for a multitude of reasons. They are all good reasons. The oft-used phrase “inappropriate elimination” refers to the cat owner’s reaction. To a cat it is appropriate to pee and poo where it feels right.

Why are cats scared of fireworks?

Is it just the noise? Some noises don’t worry cats. There is something about the sound of fireworks that is very worrying for a cat. Cats are also frightened of thunder but fireworks seem to be worse. There is a similarity in sound and I wonder if there is a sort of primeval automatic response to the loud bangs?

Wild cats might have a standard reaction to storms for self-preservation and it is possible that this reaction is hard-wired into the domestic cat’s head, who thinks that a storm is coming when he hears fireworks. Of course, that is pure speculation without supporting evidence whatsoever but it would make sense. It may also have something to do with the hearing frequency range of cats, which is much higher than for humans. Cats are very good with high pitched sounds. We don’t know what fireworks sound like to a cat.

I have learned to dislike fireworks for the reason they upset my cat. I hate seeing him scared and be unable to do anything about it. Calming music is available but I can’t see it working.

Firework night (bonfire night) is Nov 5th in England, so we – my cat and I – have at least three more days of this.

Note: sources for news articles are carefully selected but the news is often not independently verified.

Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 74-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare. If you want to read more click here.

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33 Responses

  1. Leah says:

    Poor Charlie I hate to see animals frightened out of their wits πŸ™
    My cats don’t bother about the fireworks in fact Ozzie looks at them through the conservatory roof.

  2. Barbara says:

    I feel so sorry for Charlie, he has a lot to cope with at present, though of course he’ll be fine soon because Michael understands what Charlie needs to make him feel safe and happy in his new home. I hate to see animals frightened of fireworks, it used to be pitiful to see Ebony hiding away, it’s a relief that the boys are ok with firework noises, but what about cats and dogs that don’t get in the house, and what about poor horses that are tethered outside and such an easy target for idiots, and then what about bonfires and hedgehogs and other little creatures that might be hiding in them. The whole thing about Bonfire night or Guy Fawkes night is dangerous and outdated and should have been abolished years ago, Mr Fawkes has a lot to answer for and he didn’t even get the job done!

    • Michael says:

      Charlie is curled up hiding behind my bedside radio. Bless. The noise is as bad tonight as last night. I can hear a dog barking. It’s war πŸ˜‰

      • Ruth aka Kattaddorra says:

        That’s it exactly Michael, it’s like a war zone here too. All the neighbourhood dogs were barking yesterday evening for hours on end. We counted one spate of HUGE bangs, 24, one immediately after the other, they must have lined them up to light them, Whizzz BOOM Whizz BOOM ……

        • Ruth (Monty's Mom) says:

          I think some of the very loud stuff being set off by you, Ruth, is probably homemade. Changing the laws won’t stop it. Somebody is making his own little bombs. The police catch people doing that by us routinely. Every time someone is caught making homemade explosives we all cringe hoping it’s no one we know or work with (and that’s the first question we get– did you know that guy making bombs in his basement?) But so far it’s never been anyone we know. But it’s almost scarier when it’s a total amateur because they take horrible risks and don’t realize just how dangerous production really is. Far more dangerous than handling or even lighting a finished product. But I’d be willing to bet you have somebody making their own fireworks, possibly quite near you. It takes decent people who know the culprit to rat him out to the police. Perhaps he doesn’t know any decent people.

          • Ruth aka Kattaddorra says:

            Maybe Ruth, it’s not in our street, it’s the next but one which is quite notorious for the police always being there. But the local shops are selling fireworks too. I saw some boxes of 24 rockets Β£24 !!! Β£1 each !!! Β£1 would buy 2 big tins of cat food for needy cats. It drives me mad that idiots have money to see going up in smoke.
            To give you an idea what it’s like, I was in the Post Office up the main street last week and there was a gang of yobs with one waiting to be served, he was cross eyed with drugs and talking in ‘rap’ on his mobile phone about the number of girls he sleeps with and how he has a ‘disease’ from them…. Louise who owns the P.O put them all out! Very brave of her. They set off along towards where Babz works alone in Funeralcare, I had my mobile ready to phone the police if they bothered her, thankfully they went past. She has a panic button.
            When she can afford to retire we intend to move away but that’s a long way off…2019 πŸ™

  3. Sarah Hartwell says:

    Luckily my current feline incumbents are totally nonplussed by fireworks noise. In fact Kitty’s snoring sometimes made it hard to hear the bangs outside. During the fireworks season, I make sure the TV or radio are playing to provide background noise.

  4. Ruth (Monty's Mom) says:

    A neighbor was lighting off very small firecrackers this summer, not really loud at all– the type of Class C product I don’t really have a problem with. You couldn’t hear them from in the house with the door closed, and they’re so small no one is going to killed or anyone’s roof set on fire. But Monty really was afraid and finally asked to come in. He wouldn’t stay in his yard so long as the little firecrackers were going off. It made me mad that the kid, or whoever it was, set them off for so long. Something tiny like that, fine, set off one or two. But for a solid thirty minutes? It annoyed me that Monty couldn’t enjoy his yard because of that.

    • Michael says:

      Users of fireworks rarely think about other people and cats are definitely not a consideration at all. I think pet owners put up with it (just) because it only happens once a year.

  5. In England you have “GUY FAWKES” weekend of fireworks while in India the Hindu festival of Deepawali(Diwali) has the maximum fireworks for a period of approx 5 days, beginning on 1st November and ending on 5th November.I live in a predominantly Hindu locality of Mumbai where fireworks are at maximum and thankfully my cats have got accustomed to the same.In recent years there has been a canvassing in the media and social networking channels of reducing fireworks to decrease noise pollution as well as safeguard pets and nature.People living in private bungalows should be careful of their pets as they would definitely run helter-skelter on hearing loud fireworks. Pet owners living in flats as is the case of Mumbai Citizens should avoid leaving the house door open during Diwali festival.Michael’s cat “Charlie” is traumatized due to a change in living location as well as fireworks.

    • Michael says:

      …a canvassing in the media and social networking channels of reducing fireworks to decrease noise pollution

      Well, India is ahead of the UK because no one ever discusses decreasing fireworks in the UK. Not as far as I know. People moan about it, like me πŸ˜‰ but that is about it.

      Charlie is having a tough time but at least he has me here all the time and I am sure he’ll settle once on the noise abates.

      Deepawali seems to have originated in Guy Fawkes night because the dates are the same. Am I wrong?

      • Sarah Hartwell says:

        There has been quite a bit of discussion on decreasing fireworks in the last several years and it has resulted in limiting the power of fireworks available to the domestic consumer. This means the decibels from back garden fireworks is somewhat down. Some types are now only available to professionally run displays.

        • Michael says:

          Sarah, when I wrote my comment, I knew you’d correct me πŸ˜‰ Nice. Thanks. However, the truth is there has been a massive increase in firework noise since the 1960s or something like that. We used to have fireworks on one day (more or less) now we have them for three weeks or more.

          • Sarah Hartwell says:

            You make me sound like a schoolmistress! (Where’s the html for commenting in red … πŸ˜‰ )

            Years back, I had colleagues who obtained professional grade fireworks for their back garden display. They used to get them by mail order. One year they set light to a neighbouring shed. Every year it sounded like being in a war zone. Over the ensuing years, their supply of heavy-duty fireworks was cut off. At the shelter, we often got strays turn up ofter fireworks night(s). Many were terrified pets that had bolted. That was before microchipping was commonplace.

            You’re right that it’s no longer fireworks night – it’s fireworks fortnight. But more and more, people are going to displays instead of having their own displays. Unfortunately, more and more are celebrating their birthdays with fireworks too πŸ™

            OTOH, Minns has been sitting on the climbing post watching the fireworks in the sky with something akin to fascination.

        • Ruth aka Kattaddorra says:

          Well the idiots here are still able to buy unlimited box fulls of powerful fireworks that go off like bombs, it’s firework months in the North East and the explosions shake our windows at times.
          When we were kids we had Catherine wheels and Snow fountains and Sparklers. The noisiest were small jumping crackers which the boys threw at the girls to scare us but they weren’t at all dangerous. We had ONE evening of a bonfire and we shared our pretty fireworks in our gardens. We had jacket potatoes cooked in the bonfire. Next day all of us kids went around the village and picked up all the used fireworks and the men dispersed the bonfire debris.
          We looked forward to that once a year treat but now it’s constant random bangs from October to January 1st, even in the pouring rain. Those powerful rockets whizz over then go off with a HUGE bang.
          We will keep on campaigning until public displays only are allowed but meanwhile year after year children and animals are injured or even killed, houses damaged by fireworks deliberately put through letter boxes, the fire fighters pelted by stones when they attend a fire out of control ….the police flat out trying to keep everyone safe.
          Guy Fawkes ‘Day’ is no fun nowadays

          • Ruth (Monty's Mom) says:

            Are people insane over there? Putting fireworks through the mail slot? Pelting firemen with stones? We have nothing like that here. Maybe in the worst ghetto, but even there, as much as people hate the cops, no one bothers firefighters. Fire can spread. No one wants the whole city going up in flames.

            It sounds like you are surrounded by depraved lunatics, Ruth.

            • Ruth aka Kattaddorra says:

              Yes some of our youths are quite insane Ruth, our once beautiful town is now a dumping ground for druggies, decent people are moving away and buy to let landlords putting anyone in who they get the rent paid for!
              We had criminal/druggies as our last neighbours, they were evicted but are still in this town.
              But there are a lot of decent people here too, thankfully most of our neighbours are nice. Babz and I set up Neighbourhood Watch and are in close contact with our friendly neighbourhood PC, so he can nip any trouble here in the bud.
              A few years back an idiot putting a firework through an old man’s door caused him and his cats to die in the fire. The thought of that haunts me!

      • Deepavali happens to coincide with “Guy Fawkes” day in England.”Deepavali” is one of the World’s oldest festivals as Hinduism is one of the World’s oldest religions.

  6. Ruth aka Kattaddorra says:

    Can’t celebrate anything withOUT loud noises I meant of course, sorry got carried away with my passionate rant lol

    • Michael says:

      The world has got noisier and I think it is because the world is for the young and the young don’t mind noise. They like it.

      • Ruth (Monty's Mom) says:

        I have to wear earplugs in the movie theaters now and I never did before. I went through the “Haunted Mansion” in Wisconsin Dells a few summers ago with a young friend and the sound track in there was so loud I couldn’t stay in there very long. I don’t remember their sound effects, music and the times when the monsters talk to you being so loud it hurt my ears as a child, but they definitely have the volume turned way up now. I think the younger generation is going deaf. They have those ear buds shoved in their ears and turned up way too loud, and because it’s in there so close to their ear drums they are damaging their hearing. My generation turned up the car radio now and again, but we didn’t shove our music right into our ear canal and then turn it up so loud people sitting next to us could hear it.

        Buy stock in hearing aid companies or any company that provides surgical treatment for hearing loss. There is going to be a lot of it. Right now I work with 80 and 90 year olds who can’t hear a thing. What will it be like when the kids today get older? I think they will be 40, 50 and 60 with profound hearing loss that we typically see after age 80 today.

  7. Ruth aka Kattaddorra says:

    Poor Charlie, just when he is getting used to your new home too!
    I think when cats are very frightened of fireworks, rather than just wary of the noise, that a loud bang of some sort must have traumatised them in their past.
    Our Ebony was terrified of fireworks and here we have firework months starting in October and going on until well after Guy Fawkes Day.
    Yet Walter and Jozef aren’t bothered at all, they were as loud as bombs here last night, despite the pouring rain the idiots were rife.
    The police have issued warnings that it’s an offence to let them off in a public place but of course they can’t catch the culprits. Someone’s letter box was blown off their door by a rocket!
    Walt and Jo grew up used to the noise I suppose.
    I HATE the noisy fireworks with a passion, all that money going up in smoke when times are so financially bad and frightening many animals and wild life. One night of it would be would be bad enough but once this spate is over it will go on again at Christmas and New Year. I don’t know why some people can’t celebrate anything with loud noises, it’s selfish and thoughtless.
    We’ve campaigned for years for organised displays only to be allowed fireworks but as usual with the government, animals are at the bottom of the list of priorities, taxes from firms selling the things is at the top.

    • Ruth (Monty's Mom) says:

      I don’t understand either why there should be consumer grade fireworks at all. The law says you can’t light them without a permit. To have a permit you need proof of insurance. Insurance companies won’t issue a policy for amateurs, and even if you can find one that will it is going to be prohibitively expensive. So basically no one is shooting the stuff off legally except the fireworks companies. We do use some consumer grade product in our shows. So why call it consumer grade when virtually all consumers of this product break the law in using it? How many amateurs even know about safe minimum distances from property and spectators? Almost none. So they are basically all using the product in a highly unsafe manner. Usually while drunk. How is this an acceptable situation?

      • Michael says:

        Well said. Fireworks have become a liability. They create a public nuisance most of the time, scare the hell out of most cats and dogs and other animals, irritate and annoy most people sitting at home minding their own business, injure the users sometimes, all because a minority of people like noise and bright lights. I give up.

        • Ruth aka Kattaddorra says:

          A quantity of fireworks only supposed to be lit by experts has been stolen, they have short fuses so go off in seconds. No doubt the thief/thieves have sold them on, so how many people are going to be injured or even killed just through stupidly buying the blasted things.

          • Ruth (Monty's Mom) says:

            People shouldn’t hand light out of mortars without training. Doing it correctly helps, but the fact is that most companies are going with electronic firing systems for safety now, and whoever stole those shells probably doesn’t have a firing system. If the shells were sold to be fired electronically there might possibily be the exposed black match fuse on there too or there might be only the little connection you are supposed to put the e-match into. So the ding dong who is lighting the shell is forced to touch paper to do it. As soon as the fire gets through the paper to the black match inside it goes off instantaneously. Black match covered by paper burns really, really fast, because it’s sucking for air. It burns much faster than the little uncovered bit you light to give you time to get down and turn away. If someone thinks that they can light the paper and have time to walk away they will be in for a nasty surprise. Also, what are they shooting these things out of? If the mortar is too large, the shell will go up a couple feet, fall back to the ground and go off. If it’s made of PVC pipe their mortar could explode into shrapnel just from the force of the lift charge, never mind a misfire in that gun. Even among professionals some people are safer about handling and lighting product than others. Beware the person with thirty odd years of experience who has become complacent! But if you take a person with absolutely no training or experience who is also complacent and playing with that stuff (and I will say again, probably drunk) someone is going to get killed.

            • Ruth aka Kattaddorra says:

              Yes it’s frightening isn’t it! Why on earth people have to invent such dangerous things I just don’t know!
              At our old home one of the yob sons next door made home made fireworks and blew their patio up with one! It shook our house too, he and his yob brothers and pals all just stood and laughed, they could have been killed.

              • Ruth (Monty's Mom) says:

                I can’t say all fireworks are bad when properly used, by professionals. They can be beautiful, when used in the right place and in the right way. Jeff’s friend Jim is an artist with fireworks. He does such a wonderful job with the employee party show every year. With no sponsor to please, he pleases himself and what he creates is amazing. And actually, it isn’t really that noisy. He uses more color than noise. Some of his smaller, colorful effects are silent.

                Fireworks aren’t the problem, idiots are.

        • Ruth (Monty's Mom) says:

          I enjoy bright lights and noise. But I have no use for these jerks just buying the stuff and shooting it in their yards, annoying neighbors and putting others at risk. Wanna play pyrotechnician? It really involves all day training sessions heavy on the math and some very, very long days in the hot sun, lugging around heavy equipment and getting dirty. But the opportunities are there, if you can pass a background check and are willing to work hard. Fireworks companies are hiring all the time, crying out for help, and working on a crew pays real money, at a time when most people could use the extra cash.

          Marc has often said that people want to own handguns because it gives them a feeling of power. Maybe making things go boom (even very little things) gives that same feeling of power. It makes these idiots feel in control, makes them feel important, makes them forget about their problems, if only for a brief moment. But a person’s right to recreation ends when it infringes on another person’s right to peace and quiet and safety for himself and his pets in his own home.

          I think professional shows are different because a town can vote on whether or not to have one. People can have a say. There has been pressure in Madison, WI to stop the show “Rhythm and Booms” because of potential water pollution. I think those concerned should focus on getting green shells banned, because that’s the only color that they haven’t found a way to make environmentally friendly. It’s still just bad. I think they could have a good case for banning green shells and could prevent water pollution by doing so. They may not have much chance banning the show entirely, because people do enjoy it. But the people have a voice. Elected officials will listen. It’s not impossible that show will go away. I hope the company thinks of the banning green shells solution as a way to keep the show but protect the lake.

          With people messing around with fireworks illegally you don’t get a vote or a say, and their noise and mess is your problem. I found some debris from a cake (a multi-shot device) in our yard this summer. The neighbor must have been playing around and some of his burning fireworks debris flew over our fence. I don’t get a thrill out of picking that stuff up on shoot sites where I get paid to do it. I was definitely not happy about picking it up out of my yard.

        • Leah says:

          Me too Michael its like WW3 here at times sometimes the pitch sets off car alarms! πŸ™ Why do (as you rightly say) the minority have to go to the extreme?! Really annoys me.

    • Michael says:

      Poor Charlie, just when he is getting used to your new home too!

      Absolutely. It is my fault. I should have timed the move better because I know it’ll be 3 weeks of crash and bang in the evening. I am totally in tune with you on noise. Why do people like noise? The fact that Walt and Jozef don’t mind is interesting. Perhaps they did get used noise when younger. It makes me think that cats should ideally be habituated to noise because there is so much of it. That said a sensitivity to noise is good for survival.

      I’d ban fireworks except for public displays in places that are 500 metres from residential housing. That seems fair. As you state, is is very selfish because thousands of people hate the noise but have to put up with it because 30 people like it. It is a public nuisance.

      • Ruth aka Kattaddorra says:

        It is strange that Walt and Jo aren’t bothered by the bangs because they used to see poor Ebony hiding away at this time every year.
        Some noises don’t seem to bother cats, like loud music from neighbours or dogs barking outside half the night, our cats peacefully sleep on while we toss and turn and grumble.

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