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How to Calm a Cat During Thunderstorms – 16 Vet-Reviewed Methods

Written by: Christian Adams

Last Updated on July 1, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

Cat hiding under the blanket

How to Calm a Cat During Thunderstorms – 16 Vet-Reviewed Methods

VET APPROVED

Dr. Maja Platisa Photo

REVIEWED & FACT-CHECKED BY

Dr. Maja Platisa

DVM MRCVS (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Some cats could care less about thunderstorms, while others are scared and anxious. If your cat doesn’t feel comfortable around loud and unpredictable noises, they may hide or even try to escape your home as the storm begins, which could be dangerous. The stress may impact their health, putting them off their food or leading to inappropriate urination and defecation outside of their litter box.

Luckily, there are plenty of ways we can make thunderstorms more bearable for our furry friends. We’ve rounded up 16 proven ways to help your cat keep their cool when the thunder and lightning starts. You’ll have to experiment to see which methods work best for your cat, but there are bound to be a few solutions to give your cat relief during storm season.

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Why Are Some Cats Scared of Thunderstorms?

Thunderstorms can be scary for humans and pets. The combination of loud noise and bright light at unexpected intervals can be unnerving. Your cat has much better hearing than you, and they find the loud noise of the thunder even more startling.

Thunderstorms also cause an increase in atmospheric pressure, usually before the storm breaks. Our cats can be sensitive to pressure changes, and they may show signs of discomfort before a storm arrives. There may also be an increase in static electricity, which can also make your cat feel less comfortable.

The 16 Ways to Calm a Cat During Thunderstorms

1. Create a Safe Place for Your Cat

young kitten in the cave of a cat tree
Image Credit: OFC Pictures, Shutterstock

Thunderstorms can make your cat feel stressed and anxious. Ensuring they have a safe hiding place will help them feel calmer. Many cats want to hide somewhere covered. Making a cardboard box into a safe nest lined with your cat’s favorite bedding is a good idea, or you can buy a covered cat igloo if you get several thunderstorms in your area and want something more permanent.

Some cats feel safer up high, and you can place a covered bed on a wide shelf or at the top of their cat tree.

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2. Play Background Music or White Noise

Leaving music on in the background can distract your cat from focusing on the noise from the storm outside. You can find music designed specifically for cats on YouTube that includes sounds of purring and suckling and uses different frequencies from what we’re used to. White noise can also be effective for some cats. Try a few different playlists and see which works best for your kitty.


3. Use a Plug-in Pheromone Diffuser

Feliway Plug-In Diffuser & Refill, 48-mL

Diffusers, including those made by Feliway, release a synthetic version of the calming facial feline pheromone. That is why they rub their faces on furniture—and you! Leaving a trail of a reassuring scent can remind your cat that they’re in a safe space.

Diffusers work best when used continuously, and it’s best to plug one well in advance before storm season starts. Place the diffuser in the area of your home where your cat spends most of their time.


4. Use a Calming Pheromone Collar

Abyssinian Blue Cat sitting on the arm of a sofa
Image Credit by: Foonia, Shutterstock

Using a similar technique as the plug-in diffusers, calming collars release facial pheromones designed to calm an anxious cat. The benefit of pheromone collars is that they release the pheromones around your cat all the time rather than being limited to a specific part of the house. However, they may irritate your cat’s skin and lead to fur loss, and many cats won’t tolerate wearing them for longer periods of time.

There are many products available to choose from, but we recommend you speak to your pet before choosing one suitable for your kitty. It’s important that the collar is a breakaway one, in case your cat gets stuck somewhere.

A Pheromone collar usually lasts for 30 days, but it’s more effective if you put it on your cat before a storm starts.


5. Don’t Leave Your Cat Home Alone

Perhaps you’ve planned a night out with friends or a trip to the cinema when the storm hits. This tip might disrupt your plans, but it can be helpful for your cat to have company at home during a thunderstorm.

They might not want to sit on your lap, but they will gain comfort from the fact that you’re at home, and they can seek you out for reassurance if they want to. If you need to leave the house, use a pheromone diffuser, igloo bed, or music to keep your cat calm.


6. Keep Your Drapes Shut

Cat hiding behind curtain
Image Credit: llaszlo, Shutterstock

Shutting out the bright lightning and muffling the sounds of the thunder by keeping your drapes shut can help your cat feel safer.


7. Don’t Leave Your Cat in One Room

It can be tempting to think that it might be better to leave your cat with access to only one room during a thunderstorm, especially if you have one without windows, but in fact, it will likely stress your cat out instead of calming them down. Some cats hate to feel restricted and may get distressed if they realize they can’t go into a room they normally could.

So, during a storm, it’s best to allow your cat to roam through any areas of your house they would normally have access to. They might find a safe spot in an area you wouldn’t expect.


8. Don’t Expect Your Cat to Be Affectionate

You might think a nice cuddle will help your cat feel better, but it doesn’t always help! Trying to hold your cat while they’re stressed can make them feel more anxious and restricted, and some may even scratch or bite if they feel constrained. As long as your cat knows you’re there, some may choose to seek you out for a cuddle, and others will be happier hiding away until the storm passes.


9. Treat Your Cat to a New Toy and Keep Them Busy Playing

Playing cat
Image Credit by: Onishchenko Natalya, Shutterstock

Toys can be a great way to distract your cat from the storm outside. Buying a new toy and setting it aside for stormy weather is a great idea. Having a fresh toy to play with can give your cat something else to focus on rather than the thunderstorm. Play with your cat frequently to redirect their attention from the thunderstorm, as they will feel more settled after a good exercise session.


10. Buy Catnip

Many cats love catnip, and if yours does, waiting out the storm is the perfect time to let them play with the herb. There are plenty of types of catnip to choose from, so why not experiment with one that your cat hasn’t had before? You can get catnip bubbles, catnip toys, and catnip sticks, so stock up on a few and keep them on hand for the next storm.

Some cats don’t have any reaction to catnip, so if you know your cat falls into that bracket, you can try Silvervine.


11. Experiment With Tasty New Cat Treats

Man gives his cat meat snack
Image By: Jaromir Chalabala, Shutterstock

You might have a favorite brand of cat treats, but try to buy something different to tempt your cat with. Food is an excellent distraction from what’s going on outside! Freeze-dried treats often go down well with most cats and come in various flavors, including chicken and rabbit.

Freeze-dried treats can take longer for your cat to enjoy, so they might forget about the crashes and flashes outside as they focus on their little meal. Tasty wet food on a lick mat or licky snacks may also do the trick, while food puzzles are another way to occupy your cat during a storm.


12. Try a Calming Cat Treat of Food

There are balanced and complete cat foods and treats alike, formulated in a way to provide your cat with extra reassurance during stressful times. These foods may also help with digestive health. They may not work for all cats, and it’s crucial to conduct any food changes gradually over a week, unless you are offering only treats.

Some of these products contain hydrolyzed milk protein and L-tryptophan that may promote the calming and relaxation of your cat, reducing their fearfulness in stressful situations. Speak to your vet about calming supplements and other approved products that you may use during this time.


13. Speak to Your Vet or a Behaviorist About a ThunderShirt

ThunderShirt Anxiety & Calming Aid for Cats

Designed for this purpose, ThunderShirts are wraps that apply gentle yet constant pressure across the cat’s torso. The idea is that the pressure may help them feel calmer; however, the vast majority of evidence for using a thundershirt is based on research in canines, and the same is currently lacking for cats.

It may be challenging putting one on a cat, and many cats may not tolerate wearing something snug on their body. They can get injured in the process, or may injure you as they try to wiggle out of the shirt. Make sure to speak to a vet or a feline behaviorist before considering this as an option for your kitty, and never leave your cat unsupervised while wearing a thundershirt.

If you decide to invest in a ThunderShirt, practice putting it on your cat before they need it, so you’re not adding another layer of anxiety by expecting them to wear something unfamiliar.


14. Secure Your Doors and Windows

You might have a well-behaved cat most of the time, but when stressed, even the most relaxed cat can go into flight mode and try to look for a means of escape from the noise of the thunderstorm that is stressing them out.

Cats can fit through even the smallest gaps, so ensure all doors and windows are safely secured. If people are coming in and out of the house, try to make sure everyone is careful about opening the door, and keep your cat out of the hallway so there’s less chance of them making a run for it.


15. Keep Your Outdoor Cat Indoors

Cat looking out the window
Image By: Natali9701, Shutterstock

If you know there’s a storm brewing, it’s important to keep your outdoor cat inside. Get them in well before the storm starts by enticing them with food or locking them in when they appear on their own accord. The loud noise and startling light can scare some cats so much that they may run far from home and get lost or end up getting locked in someone’s barn.


16. Talk to Your Veterinarian

If you’ve tried a combination of the previous tips and your cat still seems anxious and stressed, it’s time to make an appointment with your veterinarian. They can prescribe anti-anxiety medications or refer you to a cat behaviorist, who can help you determine if it’s possible to desensitize your cat to the sound and light of thunderstorms.

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Conclusion

While it’s normal for our pets to get scared during thunderstorms, there are several ways that you can help calm them down. Try a few of our tips above, and don’t forget to talk to your vet about it as well, as they will be able to recommend tips personalized for your individual cat.


Featured Image Credit: Kozorog, Shutterstock

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