Suzi Kowalski’s cat Spot never recovered after being scared last November by a bang that was so loud she thought “next door’s house had gone up in a gas explosion”.
Now she fears similar incidents will occur around the country as more people hold small private displays in their own gardens because Covid restrictions mean they cannot attend large-scale organised displays.
“They’ll congregate in people’s gardens,” Ms Kowalski, 62, from Leyland in Lancashire, told the PA news agency. “It’s going to be mayhem this year, it’s going to be awful.”
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Spot, who was a month short of his second birthday, ran out of the house startled after hearing a loud explosion at around 3pm on November 1 last year.
Although he returned the next day he was cold and lethargic, “shaking and cowering” according to Ms Kowalski, and kept getting weaker, even after she tried to warm him with blankets and a hot water bottle as instructed by Spot’s vet.
One morning, Ms Kowalski awoke to find Spot “in a bad way” under a fence in her garden.
She said: “I rushed him to the vet again and they said, ‘he’s broken his leg. We don’t know if he’s been hit by a car because he’s been staggering around’.
“And they said ‘there’s absolutely nothing we can do – his temperature is still low, he’s shutting down and he’s going into a coma’ and they just had to put him down.
“He wasn’t even two, and they said he’s been scared, it was the firework.”
Like many pet owners, Ms Kowalski ensures her cats are safely inside with the doors locked on Bonfire Night itself and a few evenings either side of the date.
She says that while large displays, organised by councils for example, are relatively easy to plan for, people letting fireworks off in their own gardens or streets can be much harder.
Fireworks can be let off at erratic times in the weeks leading up to and after November 5, and if one is nearby it can cause loud bangs that are frightening to pets.
Jacqui Cuff, head of advocacy and government relations for Cats Protection, said: “Fireworks can be incredibly stressful for cats and other animals, especially if their owners have not had the chance to ensure their cats are indoors and safe.
“Most owners know it’s best to try and keep their cats in on Bonfire Night but can’t be expected to anticipate fireworks being set off on random days either side of 5 November without prior warning.
“Cats associate sudden loud noises and flashes of light with imminent threat, and their natural instinct is to flee.”
In normal years, Ms Kowalski, who currently has three cats, said she would encourage firework lovers to go to organised displays rather than set them off in their own gardens.
Given the unusual circumstances this year she accepts many will be letting off their own fireworks – but she asks for them to be thoughtful, stick to predictable times and keep loud bangs to a minimum.
“Just have consideration,” she said. “Just think of animals – not only cats, all animals – little hedgehogs, foxes that are running around. Be responsible – just think, would you set a firework off in front of a baby? No you wouldn’t.
“But they think it’s okay to set fireworks off and animals are in and out of people’s gardens, running up and down everyone’s roads. They think it’s okay. There’s no care and no thought about animals.”
Cats Protection would like to see the government bring in legislation to restrict the use of fireworks.
Ms Cuff said: “This is a particularly unusual year but, going forward, we’d like to see the Government restrict the unplanned use of fireworks and require notice for displays so owners can anticipate displays and take action to keep their cats safe.
“This would require anyone planning to set off fireworks to give notice in advance.
“Reducing the maximum noise level of fireworks would also help ease the stress to cats and other animals.”
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