There may be less firework displays this year due the pandemic, but individuals may still let them off in their gardens - much to the dismay of wildlife and pets!
Fireworks are LOUD and many animals won’t understand what the threat is, where it is coming from and how to stay safe. This results in high levels of stress amongst many species. Birds, who would normally take to the sky for safety, find that the threat is coming from their safe space; wildlife that hunt and forage at night cower hungry in their dens and nests and our pet rabbits, normally content in their enclosures outside, may endure a state of panic spanning over hours.
So, what can we do to keep our bunnies safe and as calm as possible through one of the loudest nights of the year?
First of all, what are some of the signs that can tell you your rabbit is frightened or distressed?
A rabbit thumping their foot is typically a behaviour carried out when they are agitated or feel threatened. In the wild, rabbits communicate this way with their warren members when a predator is spotted, alerting everyone to flee underground to safety.
When a rabbit grinds their teeth it can mean they are in pain or extremely stressed (not to be confused with soft grinding of teeth when a rabbit is enjoying a nice head scratch for example – this is much like when a cat purrs in contentment). If this is occurring it may be best to move your pet inside to a dark, quiet place and if it continues for any length of time seek veterinary attention.
Additionally, if your pet is suddenly attempting to escape or hide from their home it could be an indicator they are not secure in that area.
Any other changes in behaviour such as reduced or lack of appetite and a change in toilet habits can be a sign something is bothering your bun! Always keep a close eye on their routines and behaviours and be able to identify when your rabbit may need extra support and a bit of TLC!
There are many ways to help pet bunnies through Bonfire Night, both who live inside and outside!
If a rabbit’s enclosure is outside, use a cover such as a thick blanket or duvet, to muffle the noise, but always make sure there is room for air to circulate around their living quarters. If it can be done, moving the rabbit’s enclosure to face a fence or wall will help reduce the overwhelming visual stimulus of the fireworks by blocking their view.
Create lots of hiding places with additional boxes and extra bedding in their home so the rabbit can feel that instinctive safety of being hidden underground away from threats.
If your rabbit is housed inside keep curtains drawn, lights on and add background noise such as a TV or radio to drown out noises from outside. If you are using background noise to mask fireworks it is a good idea to expose them to this in advance so your pet habituates to the TV/radio and it doesn’t add to their stress.
Rabbits are extremely social and during periods of stress they like to be in close proximity with those they trust, whether that be other bunnies, or you, their doting owner. Therefore, one of the best things you can do for them through the 5th of November is be a reassuring presence and keep them company.