Admitting my dislike of this coming weekend’s holiday is not a political statement. Nope. It is entirely a pro-animal statement based on the obvious fact that this is going to be a lousy weekend for animals in America. Sure, I’m a child of the 1960s: I don’t think of “bombs bursting in air” as reason to celebrate. But this is not about philosophy. It’s about noise.

When cats hear loud noises, special muscles in the middle ear squeeze to help muffle the noise and protect the inner ear. A fine adaptation when you turn the TV up too loud but scant protection from booming fireworks. Dogs not only hear sound more acutely than do humans, they also hear noises both much higher and lower than we do: those screeching and stomach-vibrating explosions are torture. Sudden, loud noise is a source of misery for both dogs and cats. Not only are they made miserable by the sounds of firework (which can actually cause damage to the inner ear) but the startle effect is often terrifying. Add the light show, and it’s as if the world has suddenly become a fierce predator and there’s no safe place to hide. That’s why many humane societies find themselves with a whole lot of extra animals come July 5th, with dogs breaking down fences and cats jumping through windows to escape from what must seem unescapable.

Short of packing up the pets and getting out of town to your yurt deep in the high desert of New Mexico (doesn’t that sounds nice?) you really can’t fully protect your animals, but there are some steps to consider. Stay home with your pets. Keep them indoors long before and after the expected blasting. Turn on some mind-numbing music or TV show, distracting by its dullness rather than contributing to the volume. Dim the lights or drop the window shades, and reach deep into your patience if you find pee on the floor. If you know your animal is supersensitive to scary events, this is a good time to talk with your veterinarian about a possible prescription. As for wildlife, offer them your best wishes for getting through this unharmed. Like I said, not my favorite holiday.

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