Have you ever noticed how your cat reacts when the skies darken, lightning appears, and the storms echo through the air? Most cats would lose their calm and become terrified, and at that point, all they need from you is care and protection.
Behaviorists have been trying to understand the part of the storm that frightens cats the most- the sound of thunder, the lightning flashes, the sound of rain hitting the rooftop, or the wind blowing around the house.
Some studies have shown that pets even show signs of anxiety an hour before a thunderstorm hits, and this backs the theory that pets react to changes in barometric pressure.
So it is common to see your cat hide in quiet corners, under the bed, or in dark places whenever they hear the sound of storms. They simply wait in a place they consider safe until the storm has passed.
But you can actually help your cat cope with storms. Check out some of the things you can do:
If you’re close to your cat during a storm, you’ll observe that they would try to pick up on your emotions. Yeah, they are watching us. If you are anxious, they also become anxious. That’s why they need you to reassure them that they are safe despite the storms.
There is a common myth that says trying to comfort your cat during a storm will reinforce fear in their mind and make it worse. That’s not true. As long as you stay calm and interact normally with your cat, they tend to stay calm and believe everything is alright.
Provide comfortable spots
If you observe that your cat easily hunkers down in a closet or under the bed during storms, you can help out by providing a comfortable hiding place. You can try some cat bed options. But ensure you keep these beds in a place where you spend a lot of time with your cat.
The moment they hear the storms approaching, they find it easy to locate the spot rather than cower under the bed.
More so, not all not pets like their crates during storms. So you can simply move their bed and favorite toys to the area they prefer when it’s thundering. The bathroom is sometimes okay to establish a safe space as the fan blocks out most of the noise coming from outside.
You can get anxiety wraps to help support your cat with a calming effect. But note that some cats are not comfortable with being held close or swaddled. So this concept may work or not for your cat. But before trying it for your cat, ensure you get your cat used to it before the storm.
Besides, note that most anxiety wraps come with Velcro closures that make unsettling noise when being detached. So when it is close to your cat’s ears, it may trigger some added fear.
You can try using desensitization to keep your cat calm during storms, especially if it is a common occurrence in the area where you live. This approach exposes your cat to gentle reminders such as a recording of distant thunder, thereby retraining them to stay calm during thunderstorms.
Whenever your cat stays calm amidst of the sound, you can reward them for their courage. This way, their response to the stimulus decreases over time.
You can take advantage of the period of storms to introduce games, playing with toys, or refreshing familiar training exercises. This helps to distract and keep your cat occupied during the storm.
More so, when you create fun bonding time with your cat at a stormy period, it trains them to think the period of the storm is filled with positive reinforcement and pleasant activities rather than stress, anxiety, and fear.
You can take your cat out for an extra walk in the afternoon after the storm. This helps them use up some of that extra energy and reduce antsy behavior associated with the storm.
Minimize the storm
When you put some measures in place to minimize the sound of storms, your cats tend to be calmer. So you can close curtains, windows, and blinds to muffle noise and reduce the flashes of thunder lightning. You can also turn on your television or radio for some cover noise to overshadow the sound of thunder or rain and hard wind.
Also, ensure you shut your doors during the storm and keep your pet indoors to prevent any form of panic or flight. The less your cat hears and sees the storm, the calmer they will be.
In severe cases of anxiety due to thunderstorms, you can visit your veterinarian to get help. You’ll get prescriptions for some anti-depressant or anti-anxiety medications to help keep your cat calm whenever they hear the sound of storms.
You can get synthetic pheromone to calm your cat during storms. These products mimic the calming natural facial pheromones produced in cats. However, you need to note that pheromone therapy works for some cats but some don’t. Nevertheless, you can give it a try.
If you choose to use this product, you can buy the pheromone diffuser online or at your local pet product store. There are also the spray types of synthetic pheromones that you can get to spray the cat’s hiding area or bedding about 20 minutes before.
Pay attention to multi-cat interactions
Sometimes, cats tend to redirect aggression, especially if you have a multi-cat household. They express this behavior when they get agitated during storms, and they transfer that fear towards a companion cat. If you notice this agitation in any of your cats, you can safely separate them into another room where they can feel safe and comfortable.
Give your cat room to choose comfort zone
You don’t have to decide and restrict your cat to a particular spot or keep them in your arms. This would make them feel restrained, hence, becoming more terrified. The best thing to do is to let your cat decide the choice of where they want to be.
You may feel playtime is good enough to distract your cat but it may not work well for your cat. Some cats may just prefer to curl up in one corner of the closet. You may need to be around your cat if they need comfort, and you can offer them affection and reassurance in a way that they find comfortable.
Sometimes, your cat may just prefer to curl up in your lap, or maybe sit next to you without being petted or touched. Give your cat the space to decide what type of interaction they find comfortable.
It is normal to see your cat become terrified and wanting to hide when a storm is very bad with severe lightning flashes and window-rattling thunder. But it’s not normal if your cat finds it hard to come out from under their hiding place after the storm. You can follow the measures above to help your cat cope with storms, but if your cat finds it hard to recover after trying all the tips above, ensure you talk to your veterinarian for the best solution.