Ears down, tails tucked between their legs, fur standing on the edge and a frightened face peeping out from under the bed… Diwali is not a happy time for animals. Every
, atom bomb and rocket burst on that day causes them distress, and many times, injury, too.
Take four-year-old Czara. The labrador dashes under the sofa the minute she hears the sound of crackers. “Czara gets extremely distressed and irritable on Diwali,” says her caretaker Preeti Chaddha, a documentary filmmaker in Noida. “She doesn’t eat and follows us all around the house.”
It was the same with Neha Khera’s pomeranian, Nutty, who passed away recently. “He would start shivering at the sound of patakas. We had to give him a sedative and lock him inside a room,” she says.
Ahad Afaque’s tom cat Billoo gets scared, too. “His tail swells and stands up, and he runs to my mother,” says Afaque. Bird-owner Manika Luthra has to move her birds’ cage inside the house and cover two sides with a wet cloth, “so that the air that enters is smoke-free”.
Geeta Seshamani, co-founder and vice-president, Friendicoes-SECA, has started getting calls from pet owners asking what precautions to take. “I advice them to finish with their meal and walk before crackers begin, so that it is resting by that time,” she says. “This is one day that people should and keep their pet locked inside a room.”
Unlike pets, who are relatively safe inside the house, stray animals have to suffer on Diwali. “Stray animals are the worst affected on Diwali,” says Maneka Gandhi, chairperson, People for Animals. “We get burn cases because kids tie crackers to their tails.” Gandhi points out that this is a cognizable offence under Indian law.
According to Mohammad Saud, co-founder, Animal Relief and Rescue, even birds have a hard time. “Daytime birds perched on electric wires try to fly once crackers start and because they can't see at night, they fall. Pigeons faint due to the smoke,” he says.
The animals’ trauma doesn’t end with Diwali - one of Chaddha’s dogs died after eating the leftover ‘masala’ from a cracker.
So make the festival of lights safe for your pet.