Ottawa Freedom Protest 2022 noise: How to help cats & dogs suffering from fear & anxiety

How to keep pets safe during the Ottawa Occupation: Pets are suffering from anxiety due to excessive noise pollution

Ottawa Freedom Protest 2022 noise: How to help cats & dogs suffering from fear & anxiety

This post contains affiliate links to products I've recommended to help keep your pet calm,
and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links.

No rational person can call it anything else- the city of Ottawa is being held hostage by an illegal occupation. Since January 29th, non-stop noise pollution from honking horns, yelling, harassment, and fireworks has created an unbearable environment for residents. For dogs and cats in downtown Ottawa, this environment is terrifying. 

The University of Davis, California published a study in November 2021 about stress-related behaviors in companion dogs exposed to common household noises. They surveyed 386 dog owners and asked about noises like microwave beeping, smoke detectors, and vacuum cleaners. They found many common household noises cause dogs stress and anxiety, with stress levels that vary depending on sound pitch. Because of their highly sensitive hearing, some of the loud sounds may even be painful for dogs. Pet's deal with common fears and stressors every day, but events like holidays- and insurrections- can be especially stressful. Fireworks are especially terrifying for dogs. During the occupation, fireworks have been set off in the streets of Ottawa, dangerously close to high-rise apartment buildings, in the middle of the night.

Keep pets safe during the Ottawa Occupation: Pets are suffering from anxiety due to excessive noise pollution

How do I know if my pet is anxious or afraid?

Dogs show their fear in a variety of ways. Sometimes a scared dog will bark, howl, growl, or become aggressive. Some dogs run away or hide. Many tuck their tail between their legs or hold their ears back. They may drool and pant even though they are not being active. Some dogs show their fear through destructive behavior, chewing or destroying things in the home. Some dogs even shed more and become gassy.

Cats typically hide when they are afraid, so avoid being preyed upon. This is bad for their mental health and can disrupt their eating patterns. Scared cat's ears are usually pulled back. Some cats hunch their shoulders, trying to appear smaller and they don't more. Other cats will react by becoming aggressive or agitated. They hiss, arch their backs, and the fur along their spine stands straight up.

Ottawa Freedom Protest 2022 noise: How to help cats & dogs suffering from fear & anxiety

How to keep your pet safe during the Ottawa Occupation

Our pets don't understand what's going on, so for them, these events are terrifying and confusing. There are things we can do to keep them safe from harm and reduce stress and anxiety from non-stop noise. 

Try to remain calm

Trust me, I know it's difficult to keep calm right now. And this coming from me is a bit of a joke. I find myself chronically enraged at what I'm seeing take place in Ottawa. When your pets are exposed to a stressful environment, they will look to their pet parent for guidance. Your pet is watching you, asking: Is this something I should be afraid of? If it doesn't scare you, it will be less scary for your pet, so stay calm. Don't encourage fear. Sometimes comforting a dog or cat too much when they are scared reinforces fear. You also need to be careful that your pet doesn't act aggressively out of fear and hurt a member of your family unintentionally. 

Keep pets inside as much as possible

Noise pollution is louder outside. Loud, sudden noises like fireworks could shock your dog or cat, causing them to run away. In this type of volatile environment, your pet could hide and be too scared to come home. Your pet is also at risk of being hurt, unintentionally or intentionally, by a person or vehicle. When you walk your dog ensure its leash and collar are secure in case it tries to bolt. Avoid areas with a lot of people and if possible, drive away from part of the city that is under siege so you can walk your dog somewhere quiet. Keep your pets off of balconies and watch them closely in backyards.

If you are afraid to walk your dog right now please get in touch with one of the volunteer groups in the city providing aid to residents. You can arrange to have volunteers come and take your dog for a walk.  

Ottawa Freedom Protest 2022 noise: How to help cats & dogs suffering from fear & anxiety

Play white noise to drown out the sound

Help mask the sound of the occupation by playing white noise, music, or watching TV. Be selective about what you use as white noise. Avoid high-pitched sounds and something that features a lot of sudden, loud noises. I use an app called Better Sleep for white noise on my phone and Headspace on Netflix if I'm watching TV. Play background noise with soothing tones and sounds. Don't put on an action movie. That's just layering stress-inducing sounds on top of more stress-inducing sounds.

Consider crating

Your pet's crate is their safe space- well, this is true for dogs, but cats not so much. If your dog is crate-trained, consider crating your dog in a quieter place away from windows and doors. Cover the crate with a heavy blanket or thick towel to help muffle the sounds. Cats may have a bed, cat tree, scratching post, or piece of furniture they consider their safe space. Moving those items to a quieter place it may help with fear and anxiety. 

Consult your veterinarian

This is a stressful time for companion animals and your pet may require medical intervention. If your dog or cat typically suffers from chronic anxiety, events like this can be unbearable. Schedule an appointment with your veterinarian, in-person or virtual if you don't feel comfortable going out. Your vet may recommend a safe and effective medication, sedative, or supplement to help ease your pet's stress until you make it through this.

Ottawa Freedom Protest 2022 noise: How to help cats & dogs suffering from fear & anxiety

Try anxiety-reducing products 

The ThunderShirt is a product that swaddles your pet. The hugging action helps calm some pets. I've had a lot of feedback from dog owners saying that the ThunderShirt really helps with firework-induced stress. Obviously, I have no feedback specifically regarding non-stop trucks and car honking. There is also a ThunderShirt for cats- but some cats who wear it just flop over on their sides, which is hilarious but not an effective tool to reduce anxiety. 

Adaptil collars and Adaptil diffusers for your home use natural pheromones to calm your dog. I've had a lot of positive feedback about the Adaptil products. Feliway is a similar product that has overwhelming success calming anxious cats. Feliway diffusers plug into the wall and use
 natural pheromones to reduce anxiety and stress-related behaviour problems in cats. It's a clinically proven solution to comforting cats at home and is available in a Feliway spray so you can spray it on specific items your cat loves.

Update ID tags and microchip information

The reality is some dogs and cats will be scared by non-stop honking horns and manage to escape. This means you need to have pet identification on your dog or cat, and the contact information should be up-to-date. I also recommend putting up a sign at your door advising people not to let pets escape when they come in and out. If your door is frequently opened and closed, it creates more opportunities for your pet to run off.

Ottawa Freedom Protest 2022 noise: How to help cats & dogs suffering from fear & anxiety

Relocate your pet if possible

You may even want to relocate yourself, to somewhere safer and better for you and your pet's mental wellness. It breaks my heart to be writing this, but you and your pet may be better off finding alternative living arrangements. There are pet-friendly hotels in Ottawa you can look into. Your pet may benefit from staying in a boarding facility outside of downtown, and some veterinary clinics may be able to board your pet for a short stay. 

Noise-proof your home 

I know it's not possible for everyone, but try to reduce the sound by noise-proofing your home. It can be expensive to do. There are a few easy things you can try without spending money. Close your curtains and use blankets or towels to cover gaps around the windows. Noise travels through the gaps. 

Other risks to pets

Some participating in the siege have brought dogs and horses to the event. This is a terrifying environment for a pet to experience from inside the home, but bringing a pet into the thick of it is grossly irresponsible. With the drop in temperatures causing extreme cold weather, it can also be abusive. Ottawa Human Society warned about this and provided a way to report, and I strongly recommend you do so.

To report animal cruelty and neglect, please contact the Ontario Animal Protection Call Centre at 1-833-9-ANIMAL (264625). If an animal is alone in a parked car or is in immediate distress, please call 911.

Ottawa Freedom Protest 2022 noise: How to help cats & dogs suffering from fear & anxiety

Animal rescues and shelters will be busy supporting the community and fielding calls from scared and desperate residents. Cats and dogs of Ottawa residents are going hungry. The Ottawa Humane Society is helping to supply volunteers with pet food they can deliver to needy residents. If you want to help animals in downtown Ottawa, please make a donation to the Ottawa Humane Society

Veterinary clinics may be forced to close, to ensure their team is safe from harassment. This means a reduction in the availability of medical care for pets. This depresses me because I know from personal experience how much it breaks the hearts of veterinary professionals when they can't provide their services to pets in need.

Ottawa Freedom Protest 2022 noise: How to help cats & dogs suffering from fear & anxiety

My message to the citizens of Ottawa

My heart goes out to the innocent citizens of the Ottawa downtown core and their pets. Many of us have varying opinions about mandates and COVID-19. But when it comes to the siege of the city, two things are 100% true no matter what you believe about the pandemic. This is no longer a protest and holding innocent residents of Ottawa hostage until your demands are met is not the way to get what you want. That meets the legal definition of terrorism. It's not about truckers or mandates and there is overwhelming evidence this was organized for nefarious reasons by people tied to hate groups. I you are participating or cheering this off, you stand with them. You are who you stand with.

Ottawa Freedom Protest 2022 noise: How to help cats & dogs suffering from fear & anxiety

I stand with the victims of the Ottawa Occupation; the citizens of downtown Ottawa. I stand with their suffering pets. I want to return to normal life too, but I'm committed to participating in our democracy to share my concerns- not destabilizing it. I believe in our right to peacefully protest, but this is not a protest. I'm disgusted and disappointed there are people willing to hold my favourite city hostage until their demands are met.

There is a database of business vehicles participating in the siege. Feel free to let them know how you feel!


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