The fear of fireworks is a very commonly reported problem amongst pet dogs and cats, and there is substantial literature on the responses of these pet species to firework exposure. Rabbits and guinea pigs are prey species that are easily disturbed by loud noises. Though these are popular UK pets that are frequently housed in outside enclosures, to date there is no research investigating their response to fireworks. Using owner reporting via an online survey, this study aimed to determine the effect of fireworks on rabbits and guinea pigs and the preventative measures used to minimise any negative effects. Participants were recruited through social media and through pet, rabbit and guinea pig blogs and magazines. In total, 841 respondents were included in the analysis. 230 were guinea pig owners, 487 were rabbit owners and 124 owned both species. Thirty-nine percent (238/611) of rabbit owners and 41% (145/354) of guinea pig owners stated that their pet was scared of fireworks. Of those rabbits reported as scared of fireworks, the most commonly reported behaviours were thumping back legs (216/238), hiding (210/238) and shaking/shivering (62/238). For scared guinea-pigs the most commonly reported behaviours were hiding (139/145), vocalising (66/145) and shaking/shivering (50/145). Only a small percentage of guinea pig (3.8%; 13/339) and rabbit owners (7.2%; 44/609) had ever consulted vets either before or after firework periods. The most common preventative intervention used by rabbit owners to reduce fear was to provide more bedding (31.8%; 192/603) and by guinea pigs owners was the provision of extra bedding (40.5%; 136/336). Overall, findings suggest that rabbit and guinea pig owners underestimate the fear of fireworks in their pets. This indicates the need for educational interventions to ensure that rabbit and guinea pig owners are aware of the signs of fear in their pets, and the appropriate precautions they can take during firework seasons. Further research is needed regarding behavioural and non-invasive physiological indicators of fear in rabbits and guinea pigs in response to fireworks, and to determine the efficacy of precautionary measures used by owners.
|Publication status||Published - 28 Jun 2018|
|Event||UFAW Animal Welfare Conference: Recent advances in animal welfare science VI - Newcastle, United Kingdom|
Duration: 28 Jun 2018 → 28 Jun 2018
|Conference||UFAW Animal Welfare Conference: Recent advances in animal welfare science VI|
|Period||28/6/18 → 28/6/18|
Oxley, J. A., Wills, A., Montrose, V. T., Bowen, J., & McBride, A. (2018). Owner perceptions of the effects of fireworks on rabbits and guinea pigs. Poster session presented at UFAW Animal Welfare Conference: Recent advances in animal welfare science VI, United Kingdom.