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7 Ways to Help a Cat Who Is Scared of Thunderstorms

Does your cat freak out when the sky lights up and echoes with thunder? Here’s how to help.

 |  Jul 23rd 2013  |   9 Contributions


I love those summer afternoons when a cool wind starts blowing, the skies darken, and distant rumbles echo through the air. I eagerly anticipate what’s coming next: lashing rain, crazy-cool lightning, and epic booms and rumbles. And when the storm finally hits, I’ve been known to stand by the window and watch the show in awe of nature’s glory -- well, until the lightning gets too close, that is.

Of course, not everybody loves thunderstorms as much as I do, and not every cat is as calm as mine when a storm comes in. If your cat is scared of the noise and lights and needs care and protection, here are some things you can do to help him stay calm.

1. Cats do react to changes in weather, and that’s normal

Some scientists hypothesize that the change in air pressure as weather changes, plus a cat’s very acute hearing, make them aware of thunderstorms before we know they’re coming. This knowledge can lead to nervousness. If you see your cat acting strange and you’re aware that thunderstorms are predicted, you can do some preventive care before the weather goes crazy.

2. Make sure your cat is indoors

If your cat goes out, be sure he has a way to get back in so he doesn't get caught in the storm unprotected. This is especially important if you’re in a tornado-prone area, because you’ll want to keep your cat with you if you need to take shelter.

Cats react to changes in weather before we know they're happening, and an incoming storm can make them nervous. Cat looking out a window by Shutterstock

3. Your attitude is key

Cats pick up on people’s energy. If you’re anxious about the oncoming storm, your cat will sense that and he’ll get nervous and stressed, too. Do your best to stay calm and centered.

4. Rescue Remedy can be helpful

Bach Rescue Remedy is a flower essence designed to help the body and mind to deal with fear or trauma. Rub a drop into the fur on top of your cat’s head. If you’re nervous about storms, take a dose yourself -- two or three drops under your tongue. (The pet version contains the same flower essences as regular Rescue Remedy, but it is alcohol-free.)

If the cat wants to hide, make her a safe place to calm down in. Hiding cat by Shutterstock

5. If your cat wants to hide, let him

It’s a natural instinct for a cat to take shelter in a storm. Leave his carrier open and put a soft blanket inside. Spray some Feliway into the carrier before he gets in it. If your cat feels more comfortable under your bed or in a closet, let him stay there until the storm is over -- unless, of course, you need to get him to the cellar in the event of a tornado.

6. If your cat wants comfort, comfort him

Some say you should ignore your cat’s fear during thunderstorms, but I don’t buy that, and here’s why: If you saw a terrified child, would you leave her alone as she trembled and cried? No. You’d hold the child, radiating calmness, and assure her that she’s safe. Cats sometimes need comfort, too. But there’s a fine line between comforting and babying. If you do too much coddling, you could reinforce your cat’s belief that it’s right to be terrified of storms, which could make him more reactive in the future.

7. Calming wraps can help

The best known of these is the Thundershirt. Originally developed for dogs in 2009, the product proved to be very successful, so the company launched a cat version. I know a few people who have used a Thundershirt on their anxious cats, and they say it works great.

Do you have any other tips for helping your cats through stormy weather? Please share them in the comments.

About JaneA Kelley: Punk-rock cat mom, science nerd, animal shelter volunteer, and all-around geek with a passion for bad puns, intelligent conversation, and role-play adventure games. She gratefully and gracefully accepts her status as chief cat slave for her family of feline bloggers, who have been writing their cat advice column, Paws and Effect, since 2003. JaneA dreams of making a great living out of her love for cats.

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