Some cats couldn’t care less about thunderstorms, while others will be scared and anxious. If your cat doesn’t feel like they have somewhere safe to hide to wait as the storm passes, they could get aggressive and difficult to handle.
Luckily, there are plenty of things that we cat owners can do to 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 individual cat, but there are bound to be a few solutions to give your cat relief during storm season.
Why are cats scared of thunderstorms?
Thunderstorms can be scary for us humans, as well as our pets. The combination of loud noise and bright light at unexpected intervals can be unnerving. Your cat has much stronger hearing than you, so they will find the loud noise of the thunder even more startling.
Thunderstorms also cause an increase in atmospheric pressure, usually before the storm itself breaks. Our cats can be sensitive to these pressure changes, so they may start to 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.
1. Create a safe place for your cat
Thunderstorms can make your cat feel stressed and anxious. Making sure they have a safe place to hide will help them feel calmer. Many cats will 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 many thunderstorms in your area and want something more permanent.
Some cats feel safer up high, so if you know that this applies to your cat, then try to create them a covered bed on a wide shelf or at the top of their cat tree.
2. Play background music or white noise
Leaving music on in the background can help distract your cat from focusing on the noise from the storm outside. You can find calming playlists designed specifically for cats on YouTube or just play your favorite tunes. White noise can also be effective for certain cats. Try a few different playlists, and see which works best for your kitty.
3. Use a plug-in pheromone diffuser
Diffusers, including those made by Feliway, release a synthetic version of the calming facial pheromone released by cats. This is the reason that they rub their faces on furniture — and you! Leaving a trail of a reassuring hormone can help reassure your cat that they’re in a safe space.
Diffusers work best when used continuously, so you’d want to plug one in before storm season starts. Place the diffuser in the area of your home where your cat spends most of its time.
4. Use a calming pheromone collar
Using the same technique as the plug-in diffusers, calming collars release facial pheromones and are 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. Pheromone collars usually last for 30 days, but as with the diffusers, the effect will be best if you put one on your cat before you actually need it.
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 do go to work or an unavoidable appointment, use the other tips like a pheromone collar, igloo bed, and music.
6. Keep your drapes shut
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, this will likely stress your cat out instead of calm them down. Some cats hate to feel restricted and will panic if they realize that 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 that they would normally have access to. They might find a spot that feels safe in an area that you wouldn’t expect.
8. Don’t expect your cat to be affectionate
We might think that a nice cuddle will help our cats feel better, but it doesn’t usually help! Trying to hold your cat while they’re stressed can result in them starting to feel more anxious, and some will even start to become aggressive 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
Toys can be a great way to distract your cat from the storm outside. Buying a new toy and putting it aside for a time like this is a great idea. Having a fresh toy to play with can give your cat something else to focus on rather than the thunderstorm.
10. Buy catnip
Many cats love catnip, so if yours does, then while waiting out the storm is the perfect time to let them have a play with this herb. There’s plenty of different 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 this bracket, then you can skip this tip!
- We reviewed the best catnip toys – see our top picks here!
11. Experiment with tasty new cat treats
You might have a favorite brand when it comes to buying cat treats, so try and find something different to tempt your cat with. Food is a great distraction to what’s going on outside! Freeze-dried treats often go down well with most cats and come in a range of flavors, including chicken, fish, and rabbit. Freeze-dried treats can take longer for your cat to chew, so they might forget about the crashes and flashes outside as they focus on their little meal.
12. Try a calming herbal remedy
Herbal remedies can help many cats and humans feel calmer in stressful situations. Bach’s Rescue Remedy for Animals is a homeopathic combination of different flowers. It can be added to your cat’s food, water, or dropped directly in their mouth. Animal Essentials Tranquility Blend Herbal Formula is another one to try. This contains herbal extracts that reduce anxiety.
13. Use a ThunderShirt
Designed for exactly this purpose, ThunderShirts are a type of wrap that applies gentle yet constant pressure across your cat’s torso. The idea is that this pressure helps them feel calmer, and the manufacturers suggest that it can help around 80% of cats.
If you decide to invest in a ThunderShirt, make sure you practice putting it on your cat before they actually 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 perfectly 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 of gaps, so check that all doors and windows are safely secured. If people are coming in and out of the house, try to make sure everyone takes care, or better yet, 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
If you know there’s a storm brewing, then it can be a good idea to keep your outdoor cat inside if you know that they have a bad reaction to thunder and lightning. The loud noise and startling light of a thunderstorm can scare some cats so much that they run far from home and become disoriented.
16. Talk to your veterinarian
If you’ve tried a combination of the above tips and your cat still seems anxious and stressed, then it might be 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 figure out if it’s possible to desensitize your cat to the sound and light of thunderstorms.
Featured Image: Kozorog, Shutterstock
- Why are cats scared of thunderstorms?
- 1. Create a safe place for your cat
- 2. Play background music or white noise
- 3. Use a plug-in pheromone diffuser
- 4. Use a calming pheromone collar
- 5. Don’t leave your cat home alone
- 6. Keep your drapes shut
- 7. Don’t leave your cat in one room
- 8. Don’t expect your cat to be affectionate
- 9. Treat your cat to a new toy
- 10. Buy catnip
- 11. Experiment with tasty new cat treats
- 12. Try a calming herbal remedy
- 13. Use a ThunderShirt
- 14. Secure your doors and windows
- 15. Keep your outdoor cat indoors
- 16. Talk to your veterinarian