Normally when I’m asked about storm phobias, the pet in question is a dog. But cats suffer fear of storms, too. I teamed up with my daughter, trainer Mikkel Becker, to respond to this reader with a terrified kitty.
Q: I have an 11-year-old female domestic shorthair cat. In the past year, she has started behaving strangely when it storms. Instead of wanting to stay indoors when it begins to rain heavily with high wind, lightning and thunder, she yowls desperately and scratches at the door to get out. She won’t let up until I let her out, and she disappears until the storm is over.
A: Like dogs, cats can develop storm phobias, but we usually don’t notice it as much because cats tend to just hide under the bed when they are scared. And storm phobias can build up over time. Your cat may always have been afraid during storms, but her fear has now built up to the point that she is desperate to escape the frightening conditions. It may also be that sometime during the past year, something occurred during a storm that frightened her, and now she wants to make sure whatever it was doesn’t happen again. She may also have a hidey-hole outdoors where she feels safe.
You can try several things to help your cat relax and stay indoors the next time there’s a storm. Prepare a small, dark, cozy place where she can retreat, such as a closet or guest bath. Spray a synthetic feline pheromone in the area to help attract and comfort your cat.
The snug fit of a Thundershirt can give a comforting hug. The gentle pressure relieves anxiety in some pets. Pay attention to weather reports so you can put it on well before a storm hits.
Relaxing music composed especially for cats may help. An internet search will lead you to “calming,” “relaxing” or “sleep” music for cats.
Finally, you can ask your veterinarian about medications you can give when you know a storm is coming. That may help your cat relax enough to stay indoors.
Read more, including how to help your dogs and cats get along, in this week’s Pet Connection!