• Create a safe space
• Close the windows, blinds and/or curtains
• Occupy your pet’s time with an activity
• Be with your pet and show them affection
• Train them to get used to storms
Prepare A Space That’s Safe
It helps to prepare a place for your pet—to run to—that they feel is safe. Cozy rooms that are somewhat tight in space are ideal. A closet, laundry room or bathroom will do just fine. Make sure there are no windows or the curtains are drawn. Once you designate a space, consider leaving within it, your pet’s favorite comfort blanket, some food, water and a few toys to keep him/her occupied. Try not to close the door or lock your cat in the chosen space. This will only add to their stress.
If you can minimize the amount of storm that is visible to your pet(s), they’ll be less likely to have an anxiety attack. Consider closing the curtains, blinds and windows to reduce the amount of noise and visual cues that can trigger your cat’s stress. Play something soothing like atmospheric electronic music, smooth jazz or classical music to mask the sounds of thunder, rain and winds. Check all the doors around the house, making sure that they’re closed and don’t take your pet out into the storm—to prevent running away.
Try to use this time to do something that can distract their attention away from the storm. Grooming, training or playing with toys are all good activities to preoccupy your pet and create a positive experience during a stressful time.
If you spend time with your pet during the storm, they can read your body language and see that you’re relaxed and can mimic your calm behavior. Consider moderate cuddling and petting, without overdoing it. Your pet can pick up on any excessive attention and can negatively interpret it.
If storm anxiety is a severe problem for your pet, you can try training their fears away. Try using thunderstorm audio. Play it in sessions, gradually increasing the volume until your pet becomes accustomed to the sounds. For full effect, you can use a strobe light or flash light to reproduce the lightning flashes. This training technique can desensitize your pet to aggressive weather cues and help them to acclimate themselves to a real storm.
Pheromones are chemicals that are released from animal glands. These chemicals are used to communicate within species. There are certain pheromones that communicate calming messages. These types of pheromones have been synthesized and made available for purchase. They come is sprays and plugin diffuser and are considered effective in relaxing most pets in stressful situations. If you use a plugin diffuser in your pet’s favorite room—during a storm—it can help to reduce your pet’s storm anxiety.
Herbal remedies are like pheromones in that they relax your pet after being administered. They’re natural and are usually dried plants and flowers(e.g. catnip). The exception is Bach Rescue Remedy which is a flower essence made available as liquid drops or sprays. Certain herbal remedies act as sedatives that can, not only calm your pet, but help them take a nap during a storm.
Be sure to consult a qualified vet about herbs that will be well suited to your pet’s anxiety. Also, it would be helpful to take a look at the ASPCA’s complete listing of non-toxic and toxic plants/herbs for animals.