Before storm season, Aussies are urged to tidy up their yards and clean out their gutters. Our pets, however, also deserve our full attention when bad weather hits.
Cats and dogs, in particular, are susceptible to loud noises, like thunder, pouring rain and howling winds. This ‘thunder anxiety’ can cause so much distress for our furry friends that they can run away to escape the loud noise and become lost or injured.
Veterinarian Dr Kersti Seksel, who developed Puppy Preschool® and Kitten Kindy®, said dogs and cats have hearing that is at least four times more sensitive than our own1. This means if we jump during a loud crack of thunder, our pets will get quite the shock as well (don’t be surprised if you find kitty clawing up the curtains during a severe thunderstorm).
To help ease your pet’s anxieties, we’ve compiled a guide to comforting your friend this storm season.
Distract with games and other noises
Distraction can help redirect your pet’s stress and fear. Bring out your friend’s favourite toy and play a game, or offer your cat or dog some of their favourite treats.
Turning on the television, some music or even the fan can help diffuse the sounds of the storm raging outside.
Provide a safe place
Choose a pet-friendly, quiet, small space in your home to provide a type of ‘safety zone’ for your pet. This safe space could be their crate (unlocked, so they don’t feel trapped) in a small room, like a laundry room, bathroom or even a wardrobe!
Cats, in particular, may prefer a cardboard box, the space under your bed or an open cupboard.
It is optimal to use a small space your pet likes and is familiar with (not a room you send them to when they’re being reprimanded). Overall, be sure to bring your pets inside, as they will feel more vulnerable to danger if they’re left outside to deal with bad weather – which will sound even louder outside (don’t forget: cats can easily jump the fence and run away).
Keep calm and reassure your pet
Cats and dogs can sense your emotions. If you’re feeling panicked or stressed, your pet can mirror these feelings.
Try to reassure your cat or dog with a happy, soothing tone of voice, and provide lots of patting, hugs and treats to keep them happy.
Swaddling your pet, particularly dogs, can also provide some comfort – it feels like a constant hug. Thundershirts are designed specifically for this purpose. Alternatively, you could carefully wrap your dog with a light blanket or a t-shirt.
Desensitise your pet to storm sounds
If your pet struggles with storm anxiety, you may like to download thunderstorm sounds and play them quietly to your pet when the sun is shining and the birds are singing. While you play these sounds, make a point to play with your pet and feed them their favourite treats.
Over time, increase the volume of these thunderstorm sounds. Whenever you turn off the music, stop playing with your pet so that they associate the storm sounds with playtime. This activity will hopefully reduce your pet’s anxiety when a real storm hits.
Close blinds and curtains
Shield your pet away from heavy rain on the windows and bright flashes by shutting blinds and curtains. This can create a sense of security and will help your pet focus on other activities.
As every pet is different, you may that find some of these tips and tricks work better than others. Overall, listen to your pets needs. If a storm is forecasted to hit, try your best to be home with your pet, or arrange for another person your dog or cat knows well to look after them – especially during severe weather.