Thunderstorms and the Effects on Our Pets
Thunderstorms can be worrying and stressful for our dogs and cats. With the warm weather thunderstorms at this time of year can go on for several days and this stress can have serious implications for our pets, affecting both health and behaviour, especially if experienced over long periods of time. If your pet becomes stressed during thunderstorms, the following advice may help you to make your pet feel more safe and secure.
Make sure your pets are home before the storm
If your cat enjoys going outside, make sure they are back indoors before the thunderstorm. If you know there is a thunderstorm forecasted; walk your dog in plenty of time to avoid it. An exercised dog may rest and be calmer. Also if your dog becomes a little jumpy around thunderstorms, it is a good idea to exercise your dog on a recall lead recall lead so that you have safe control of your dog in case the thunderstorm arrives sooner.
Make your house feel secure
Close all windows, vents, curtains and connecting doors in the house to help drown out the sights and sounds of thunderstorm. Put some background noise on, such as the TV or radio. Playing music with a strong beat can reduce your pet's worry over loud or unpredictable bangs from thunder.
Allow your dog or cat to rest where it feels the safest. This may be under your bed, under the table, down the side of the sofa, or under your legs. Placing your pet's bed in this safe place, will comfort them.
If you are not sure where your dog's safe place is, you can try creating a den for your pet instead. Dog crates are a great way to do this. Introduce the crate a few weeks before thunderstorm for your dog to get use to, then place their bed inside to make the area nice and comfortable. Covering the crate with a duvet or thick sheet will help to drown out the noise of the thunderstorm.
Cats naturally like to climb and hide at different levels in their environment. This meets their instinctive needs and makes them feel safe. Take a look around your home and see what different levels you can provide for your cat to express this behaviour during a thunderstorm.
Comforting your pet
If your dog or cat suffer with fear of thunderstorms, never leave them home alone during a thunderstorm. They will always feel more relaxed and secure with you around.
It can be hard to see our pet in distress at this time of year, and it can cause a lot of worry. If you can, try to stay nice and relaxed during a thunderstorm. Our pets are very in-tune with our emotions, and if we appear worried and anxious, this may make things worse for them. If your dog or cat does become distressed, do comfort and love them! Don't worry, it's not possible to reinforce the emotion of fear. Comfort and reassurance can help your dog feel better. The motion of licking and chewing can also help to relax dogs. Try giving your dog a kong packed with something they find tasty and rewarding, or give them a rawhide or Whimzees chew.. Don't pick up or restrain your cat if they appear stressed. Cats appreciate a quiet space to deal with their stress on their own.
Litter tray for your cat
During a thunderstorm your cat may be less inclined to go outside. You may need to introduce a litter tray into the house. See our cats living with stress advice blog about the importance of litter trays.
Seek professional help for your pet
Behavioural therapy can also help to teach your dog or cat to cope with the unpredictability of thunderstorms, through reward based desensitisation of the noises. It can take many months of work with your dog or cat to alter their behaviour towards such noises, but in the long term this will make your dog or cat a happier pet during this time of year and reduce their stress. For more information speak to a qualified behaviourist who will be able to work through the process with you and your pet.
Do you need further advice?
If you need any further advice, please contact the OSCAR Helpline Team on our freephone number 0800 195 8000 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.