Is your dog afraid of thunder? Does your kitty act like a scaredy cat every time a storm comes up? While it may seem like pets sometimes overreact during a storm, these loud weather events cause atmospheric changes that can be very upsetting to dogs and cats alike. If you have a dog or cat scared by thunder, read on to learn how to help your pet cope.
Why Thunderstorms Scare Pets
Anyone who has had to pull a scared pet out of bed on July 4 knows that many of our four-legged friends are startled by loud noises. Remember that your dog or cat’s hearing is much better than that of humans, and they are not trained to know that thunder often comes after lightning. This sudden noise can startle pets very much.
However, thunder and hail aren’t the only reasons some pets become anxious during storms. Atmospheric pressure and the build-up of static electricity in the air are also irritating to many pets, says the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University. This buildup tends to precede a storm, so some dogs and cats hide or show signs of anxiety before hearing the first thunder in the distance.
Is your dog afraid of thunder?
Not all dogs are bothered by thunder or stormy weather in general. Disturbed people are often easy to spot. Signs of a dog that is afraid of thunder include shaking, whining, hiding and constantly moving around, as if he is trying to run away from the source of the stress.
If not managed carefully, this anxiety can develop into a full-blown phobia, Petful says, signs of which also include panicking and destructive behaviors like soiling carpets or destroying furniture to try to escape. Make sure all doors and windows are closed tight until your dog can deal with her fear.
Is your cat afraid of thunder?
Like some dogs, some cats don’t care if it’s stormy outside and remain as calm and collected as they would on a sunny day. However, many cats become anxious during storms and often show their fear by hiding in closets or under furniture until the storm passes.
Petplace says agoraphobia in cats is much less common than in dogs, but it does happen occasionally. A frightened cat typically displays a strong fear response that includes ruffled fur and a bushy tail, sometimes accompanied by a hiss. A cat in this state can become aggressive if you try to handle it, so don’t try to pin it down to calm it down. Make sure he has a safe, quiet shelter so he can wait for the storm to pass.
How to calm your pet during a storm
To help your frightened pet stay calm during a thunderstorm, start by ignoring your pet’s anxious behavior. It’s not easy, but sometimes pets take efforts to calm and soothe them as extra attention and reward for their behavior, Dogster says. Try to stay calm and relax. If you show fear or anxiety during a storm, your pet will feel it, reinforcing her belief that she has good reason to be afraid.
Move your pet to a grounded area with no exterior doors or windows, such as a finished basement or tiled bathroom. This can reduce static electricity and pressure that contribute to your pet’s discomfort, as well as reduce noise from thunder and eliminate the visual stimulation of watching a storm outside, Cummings says. If your dog prefers his crib, try covering the crib with a blanket until the storm passes and distract him with his favorite toy or a healthy treat. Other useful tools include:
- Drying Pads: Odorless drying sheets can reduce static on your dog’s coat, but rub gently to avoid leaving a chemical layer, Rover suggests. This should not be done with cats, as they will lick the rest on their coats. Self-grooming dogs are usually not good candidates for this trick.
- Supplements, Pheromones, and Herbs: Pet-safe compounds for dogs and cats that work to calm them down without knocking them out. Check with your veterinarian to determine the right amount for your pet.
- Storm Protective Clothing for Dogs or Cats: There are several commercially produced chest wraps that have been shown to help pets stay calm during a storm. You can also make your own by wrapping your pet in an elastic band or wrapping it tightly in an old scarf or t-shirt. Just make sure you don’t wrap your pet so tightly that they can’t breathe.
Whether you have a dog or cat afraid of thunder, it’s important to remember that your pet has good reason to be upset during storms. Instead of scolding or spoiling them for their anxious behavior, stay calm and come up with healthy coping strategies for your pet. You will help teach them that storms are not so scary.