Keeping Pets Calm During Thunderstorms

Is your furry companion terrified of thunderstorms? Does your cat turn into a fraidy-cat whenever a storm is brewing? While it may seem like they are overreacting, the truth is that thunderstorms can be extremely distressing for dogs and cats. These weather events create atmospheric changes that can disrupt and unsettle our pets. If you want to learn how to help your pet cope with thunderstorms, keep reading.

Why Thunderstorms Are Scary for Pets

French bulldig hiding beneath a banket

Anyone who has ever had to coax a scared pet out from under the bed during a thunderstorm knows that loud noises can be frightening for our four-legged friends. Dogs and cats have much stronger hearing than humans, and they don’t understand that thunder usually follows lightning. The sudden noise of thunder can startle pets and make them anxious.

However, thunder and hail aren’t the only reasons why some pets become anxious during storms. The barometric pressure and buildup of static electricity in the air can also make them uncomfortable. According to the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, this buildup often precedes a storm. That’s why some cats and dogs hide or display signs of nervousness even before the first rumble of thunder can be heard in the distance.

Is Your Dog Scared of Thunder?

Not every dog is bothered by thunder or stormy weather in general. However, those who are bothered are usually easy to spot. Common signs of a dog scared of thunder include shivering, whimpering, hiding, and constant movement, as if they were trying to run away from the source of their stress.

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If not handled carefully, this anxiety can escalate into a full-blown phobia. Signs of a phobic dog also include panicked and destructive behaviors, such as soiling the carpet or destroying furniture in an attempt to escape. To help your dog cope with their fear, make sure all doors and windows are tightly closed until they can feel more at ease.

Is Your Cat Scared of Thunder?

Himalayan cat hiding in the red wooden drawer

While some cats remain calm and collected during storms, many of them become anxious. They often display their fear by hiding in closets or under furniture until the storm passes.

Although thunderstorm phobia is less common in cats than in dogs, it can still happen. A phobic cat typically responds with a raised coat, a bushy tail, and sometimes hissing. If you try to handle a cat in this state, they may become aggressive. It’s essential to provide them with a safe and quiet hiding place where they can wait out the storm.

How to Calm Your Pet During a Storm

To help your frightened pet stay calm during a thunderstorm, start by ignoring their nervous behavior. It can be challenging, but pets sometimes interpret attempts to calm and soothe them as extra attention and rewards for their behavior. Stay calm and relaxed yourself. If you show fear or nervousness during a storm, your pets will pick up on it, reinforcing their belief that there is a reason to be afraid.

Move your pet to a grounded area in your home with no outside doors or windows, such as a finished basement or a tiled bathroom. This can reduce the static electricity and pressure that contribute to their discomfort. It also muffles thunder noises and removes the visual stimulus of witnessing the storm outside. If your dog prefers their crate, try covering it with a blanket until the storm passes and distract them with a favorite toy or a healthy treat. Here are some other helpful tools:

  • Dryer sheets: Rub unscented dryer sheets lightly on your dog’s fur to reduce static electricity. However, be careful not to leave a coating of chemicals, especially on cats who may lick it off.
  • Supplements, pheromones, and herbal remedies: Consult with your veterinarian about pet-safe compounds that can help calm your cat or dog without knocking them out.
  • Cat or dog storm wear: Consider using commercially produced chest wraps or make your own by tightly wrapping your pet with a stretchable bandage or swaddling them in a towel or old t-shirt. Ensure they can still breathe comfortably.
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Whether you have a cat or dog scared of thunder, remember that their fear is valid. Instead of scolding or coddling them for their anxious behavior, stay calm and provide healthy coping strategies. By doing so, you’ll help teach them that thunderstorms aren’t as terrifying as they seem.

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