Stress reducing films made for our four-legged friends

Dolly the golden retriever cross watches 'Woofering Heights': the film to relax dogs with noise phobia.

Dolly the golden retriever cross watches 'Woofering Heights': the film to relax dogs with noise phobia.

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Remember, remember the 5th of November – as being one of the most stressful times of the year for cats and dogs.

However, the barrages of Fireworks thsi weekend could become a little more bearable for our kitty and canine population.

Bear the maine coon cat enjoys 'Peer Window': the film to calm cats with noise phobia.

Bear the maine coon cat enjoys 'Peer Window': the film to calm cats with noise phobia.

That’s with the release of the first films for cats and dogs that are scientifically developed to help reduce stress caused by fireworks.

The films for cats and dogs have been developed by MORE TH>N Pet Insurance and feature the unmistakable voice of actor David Tennant as soothing narrator.

The movies are playfully entitled Woofering Heights and Peer Window in homage to the Emily Bronte and Alfred Hitchcock classics.

Although to humans the short films may appear abstract and surreal they are highly compelling viewing for their intended audiences of cats and dogs. Indeed, every aspect of both films draws extensively on scientific insights into the precise forms of audio and visual content that can at first capture and arouse the attention of a cat or a dog before gradually inducing feelings of relaxation and sleep.

Each part of David's script, including specific words, cadence, intensity, volume and pitch were designed to aid relaxation among cats and dogs.

Each part of David's script, including specific words, cadence, intensity, volume and pitch were designed to aid relaxation among cats and dogs.

MORE TH>N worked closely with animal behaviourist Karen Wild and vet Robert White-Adams throughout the making of both films. In addition to compiling an in-depth academic report, Karen Wild consulted on both productions to ensure they would stay true to the research and have the potential to relax cats and dogs and counter the effects of noise phobia.

To that stress-busting end, ‘Peer Window’ is set entirely within a window frame to reflect a cat’s habitual behaviour of staring out of windows for approximately five hours a day. The film depicts a blend of animate and inanimate objects, as recommended by the academic research, including looping scenes of fish, swaying trees, rain droplets and rippling water, among other abstract images. Accompanying these scenes are melodic sounds in cat-friendly frequencies and the softly spoken tones of David Tennant – based on the scientific insight that a human voice can relax cats.

Similarly, ‘Woofering Heights’, the film for dogs, employs key scientific prompts by incorporating slowly moving pastoral scenery, a cast of sedentary dogs and the relaxing lilt of David Tennant delivering an Emily Bronte-inspired narration full of words and cadences that can calm canines. What’s more, the film has been shot entirely in a dog’s colour spectrum of blues and yellows – heightening the viewing experience for them.

The films are designed to be played to cats and dogs a number of times, allowing them to become familiar with the content and learn by association. Both of the short films replay after the credits roll to reinforce the feelings of calm and relaxation.

Karen Wild, pet behavioural expert, said: “Noise phobia in cats and dogs can lead to distress, injury and long-term behavioural problems, so it’s important for pet owners that they do as much as they can to help calm and relax their animals. These films may seem strange to humans, but it’s important to realise that cats and dogs do not perceive the world in the same way we do and will respond to completely different audio and visual stimuli. Hopefully these films, in conjunction with other veterinary-approved measures, can have a positive effect on cats and dogs that suffer from noise phobia.”

George Lewis, head of pet insurance at MORE TH>N, said: “For us if a film sends the audience to sleep it’s generally regarded as a sign that it’s a bad film. However, creating a soporific state is the exact intention of the films for cats and dogs. At MORE TH>N we understand the consequences of noise phobia for pets and at no other time of the year is this issue more prevalent than during the fireworks season, with four in every five cats and dogs reportedly affected. Our intention with these films is to create something practical for worried owners to use to calm their cats and dogs. Tried and tested with pets and their owners, these films have the potential to reduce the stress pets experience around Bonfire Night when loud fireworks are in full flow.”

Vet Robert White-Adams added: “Noise phobia is a very common problem we encounter in veterinary practices. In addition to the well-documented issues caused by fireworks, we see problems caused by vacuum cleaners, building work, traffic noise, sirens and crashing and banging outside. These problems are mainly associated with dogs but more and more we’re seeing problems with cats too. Anything we can do to move their attention away from what’s scaring them to something more calming and relaxing is a valuable tool to have.”

In addition to playing the films to cats and dogs, owners can try to reduce the impact of fireworks by following the advice from vet Robert White-Adams below:

1. Take your dog outside during the day and exercise them so they are tired. As with humans, physical exercise induces endorphin release, which amongst other things has a potent anti-anxiety effect.

2. About an hour before expected fireworks give your dog/cat a medium sized normal meal. The feeling of satiety carries a potent natural anti-anxiety effect.

3. Move your pet to the area of the house in which you believe they feel most at home.

4. Cover the windows and doors, and turn on lights – you are aiming to reduce the impact and awareness of light flashes outside.

5. Put on some background music at a moderate volume – preferably music with a constant and distracting bass or beat. You are aiming to reduce the startling impact of crashes, bangs and whistles from outside.

6. If your pet is awake and active, try and distract them with gentle, calm play.

To view the videos, visit:

Woofering Heights Film for Dogs: https://youtu.be/_xAFSNn335E

Peer Window Film for Cats: https://youtu.be/z0xL2Q7D384

A making of documentary: https://youtu.be/0MHF-f55vd8