As summer approaches and Mother Nature starts to unleash her fury with thunderstorm season – dark foreboding skies, gale force winds, flashes of lightning and crashing thunder – it’s not unusual for cats to become nervous or even ‘freak out’. Even before a storm hits, cats are likely to react to changes in barometric pressure and their acute hearing may mean that they can hear the sounds of the storm in the distance.
Here are some tips to help ease your cat’s anxiety during a thunderstorm:
Stay calm – cats are extremely intuitive and very good at picking up on the body language, emotions and stress levels of their owners. If you act scared and nervous then your cat is likely to pick up on this and will become stressed and anxious too.
Try Rescue Remedy – known to be effective in helping deal with thunderstorm anxiety, Rescue Remedy is a Bach flower essence available for both humans and pets. To help you cope with thunderstorms, just add 2-3 drops under your tongue. The pet version (which is alcohol-free) has the same flower essences and is recommended by many veterinarians. You can add it to your cat’s food, water bowl or a treat, or rub it into their ears, nose or paw, whichever is easiest. There are also other holistic, natural calming aids for cats available – ask your local vet for advice.
Let your cat hide – Sometimes all a cat will want to do during a storm is curl up somewhere and hide. If your cat is going to be more comfortable sheltering under your bed, or in a wardrobe or cupboard make the area comfortable with a soft blanket or cat bed and let him stay there until the storm passes.
Comfort your cat – Comfort your cat if he wants to be comforted, but be aware of the fine line between comforting your cat to calm them down and coddling your cat which can have the opposite effect. If you baby your cat and are overprotective during a thunderstorm they are likely to think that they are right to be scared of thunderstorms and you will end up reinforcing their anxiety and fearful behaviour. Many argue that it is better in fact, to provide your cat with a safe place to hide where he can sit out the storm.
Calming wraps – Swaddling is a common practice to help settle or calm a baby when they are upset. Calming wraps for cats work in much the same way. The best known is the ‘Thundershirt’, which was initially developed for dogs and is now available for cats. It applies a gentle hugging pressure to produce a calming effect which reduces anxiety and fear. Make sure that you purchase the right size based on your cat’s weight and chest measurements, and you will want to try it on your cat before a thunderstorm to allow your cat time to get used to it.
Do you have a cat who is scared of thunderstorms? What measures do you take to help them through storm season? Please share your tips and stories in the comments below.